The widow of the lead vocalist of the group Soundgarden has filed a lawsuit against her husband’s doctor for prescribing the drugs that she says led to his suicide last year. Singer/songwriter Chris Cornell took his life in May 2017.
The lawsuit, brought by Vicky Cornell, claims that the doctor “negligently and repeatedly” prescribed Cornell “dangerous mind-altering controlled substances…which impaired [his] cognition, clouded his judgment and caused him to engage in dangerous impulsive behaviors that he was unable to control, costing him his life.”
Although Cornell’s widow hasn’t publicly commented on the lawsuit, she has suggested in the past that she believed the overprescription of certain drugs was responsible for his suicide. She says that just hours before his death, he told her that “he may have taken an extra Ativan or two.” Ativan is a brand name for the anti-anxiety medication lorazepam.
The lawsuit claims that the singer had been prescribed more than 940 doses of the medication between Sept. 2015 and his death nearly two years later, as well as oxycodone. Sometimes, according to the suit, the doctor allowed others who worked for him to prescribe the medications. Further, the suit claims that the doctor never conducted any physical exams or clinical assessments or lab tests on Cornell.
Cornell’s widow claims in the lawsuit that her husband’s doctor knew he was an “addiction-prone individual” because the therapist the singer was seeing to deal with his substance abuse referred him to the physician.
According to the toxicology report released after Cornell’s death, there were seven drugs in his system. The medical examiner ruled his death a suicide, saying that “drugs did not contribute to the cause of death.” However, the suit claims that for people with addiction issues, lorazepam can increase the risk of suicide.
The suit is accusing the physician as well as his medical group of negligence, willful misconduct and failure to get informed consent. It claims that the doctor didn’t make Cornell aware of the possible dangers of taking the medication he was being prescribed.
Overprescription of strong pain relievers and anti-anxiety medications is a serious problem. Physicians who have the authority to prescribe them owe it to their patients to do so responsibly. When they fail to do that, the consequences can be deadly. Surviving loved ones can and should determine what their legal options are for holding these physicians responsible for those consequences.