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Tranquilliser 'addict' wins $20,000
in damages out-of-court

The Age, Australia,
May 13, 1986

Christine Holt: sued

PERTH - A Perth woman who says she became addicted to tranquillisers prescribed by a psychiatrist has been paid damages of almost $20,000 in an out-of-court settlement.

Medical lawyer Dr David Hoffman believes it is the first damages claim for drug dependence in Australia, and might open the way to other lawsuits from people hooked on prescription drugs.

The award will be paid by the Medical Defence Union, one of the professional liability insurers for the medical profession.

Dr Hoffman represented Mrs Christine Holt, 36, who in 1982 became addicted to Lexotan (bromazepam), a common tranquilliser, and subsequently suffered withdrawal symptoms including hallucinations and convulsions.

Mrs Holt sued the consultant psychiatrist she had seen because of stress symptoms. She alleged that the psychiatrist had prescribed the drug and, that she had taken up to 48 milligrams daily.

Her addiction was discovered in September 1982 after admission to the Gairdner Hospital for an operation to pin a broken elbow.

At that stage she stopped taking the tranquillisers, unaware that she was addicted. After the operation, Mrs Holt began to hallucinate, developed insomnia and suffered a convulsion. Hospital doctors identified withdrawal symptoms and advised Mrs Holt to taper off the drug gradually.

But she was unable to withdraw on her own, and went Into the hospital's psychiatric ward in November 1982 for gradual detoxification. There she suffered acute withdrawal symptoms.

The case was due to be heard in the District Court in Perth this week. But last month the solicitors for the psychiatrist wrote to Mrs Holt's lawyers offering to settle the case.

Their offer said that "the defendant admits liability but disputes the amount of his liability for damages and offers to consent to judgment for the sum of $19,788.04.


Media Archive · Ashton Manual · Aus / NZ

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