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McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden. Friday, Oct. 30, 2015.

OGDEN — A retired economics professor has filed a wrongful death lawsuit accusing McKay-Dee Hospital and three doctors of causing his wife’s death by prescribing and administering an anti-psychotic drug that carries a black-box safety warning for certain elderly patients.

Renuka Biswas, 72, of Logan, died at the Ogden hospital on Jan. 12, 2015, according to a family obituary. Her husband, Basudeb Biswas, a Utah State University emeritus professor, filed suit May 16 in Ogden 2nd District Court, seeking damages for alleged negligence in his wife’s death.

The suit, which also names hospital parent company IHC Health Services, said the woman was given Haldol for agitation and confusion. But a safety warning issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Haldol had been linked with “increased mortality in elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis,” according to the suit.

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FDA Haldol black box warning

A man whose wife died at McKay-Dee Hospital on Jan. 12, 2015, alleges in a lawsuit that the woman was negligently prescribed a medication contrary to a "black box" warning about the drug by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Renuka Biswas suffered a head injury in a fall Jan. 5, 2015, and was taken to Logan Regional Hospital, then transferred to McKay-Dee. The suit said she had a history of “persistent confusion and memory issues” and “prior to the incident had sought help for dementia-related psychosis.”

At McKay-Dee, the suit said, the woman was “repeatedly administered excessive doses of Haldol,” and she became mentally clouded and suffered heart rhythm disturbances, the suit said. “Despite the ongoing signs of an overdose, administration of the drug continued.”

Before receiving Haldol, she had been improving and was scheduled to be discharged Jan. 10, but family members found her “in a catatonic appearance” when they arrived that day, the suit said.

In their attorneys’ response to the suit, doctors Charles Ivester and Gurjeet Grover denied “all allegations of negligence” and said Renuka Biswas was prescribed Haldol “as an accepted ‘off label’ medication for agitation.” 

“There may be different modalities available for treating patients with head injuries and dementia-related psychosis,” the doctors’ response said. They added they were “unaware of Mrs. Biswas demonstrating dementia-related psychosis.”

They denied “that the medication as prescribed posed a significant and substantial risk of harm. Furthermore, defendants affirmatively state that not medicating Mrs. Biswas with Haldol would have placed her at risk of significant harm.”

Attorneys for McKay-Dee and two other named defendants, Dr. Christine Foster and registered nurse Erica Sanderson, filed a separate answer to the suit.

They denied negligence and said other medical providers and Basudeb Biswas may share blame for claimed injuries and damages.

“Discovery may reveal that (other) health care providers may have failed to appropriately or timely diagnose or treat Mrs. Biswas” and that “discovery may reveal that plaintiffs were contributorily negligent.”

The hospital also challenged the suit’s reliance on the black-box warning.

“The FDA does not establish the standard of care or per se negligence to establish liability, damages, or punitive damages,” the hospital said.

Aaron Bergman, Basudeb Biswas’s Logan attorney, said in a phone interview the FDA alert also warned against giving Haldol to an elderly patient intravenously.

“The FDA says, ‘Hey, don’t do this,’ and both (giving Haldol and by an IV) were done,” Bergman said.

“The facts at this time are disputed, and we are just in the infancy of litigation, but it’s a case where a patient seemed to be doing very well and progressively getting better and then medically sharply declined,” he said. “And that decline, from what we have learned so far, appears to be directly related to the administration of this Haldol.”

Efforts to reach McKay-Dee spokesman Chris Dallin and McKay attorney George Naegle were not immediately successful.

You can reach reporter Mark Shenefelt at mshenefelt@standard.net. Follow on Twitter at @mshenefelt and Facebook at www.facebook.com/SEmarkshenefelt.

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