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Sydsvenska Dagbladet
February 27, 2004
by Mona Jakstrand

He had asked for about 500,000 kroner (50,000 Euros) for his damages but he only got 20,000 (2000 Euros). The 58-year-old man from Lund was suing Region Skåne because he had become dependent on tranquillisers and he was hoping that he would be the first person to win such a case. He did not and instead there will be a settlement.

On Friday an arbitration agreement was handed over to the court in Lund. Region Skåne agreed to pay approximately 20,000 kroner and the man from Lund can no longer claim compensation from the region through their insurance company.

Are you happy with this settlement?

"I regard myself as a loser. But it is not about the money. I would rather have an admission from the doctors that they treated me inappropriately by prescribing addictive drugs. And because Region Skåne agrees to pay such a small amount, I feel that they should also admit that the treatment was wrong," he said to the Sydsvenskan newspaper.

At the end of last year he sued the local health care authority and claimed compensation for the damage he sustained from tranquillisers, also called benzodiazepines. He feels that he was mistreated because there are a clear guidelines governing the prescription of this class of drugs.

The doctors knew about his former history of illness, including alcoholism, but still they continued to prescribe high doses of addictive drugs. As a result the 58-year-old man became dependent on the drugs and because of this addiction he has sustained both physical and psychological damage. In the end, he said that he also lost his job.

Who is the winner and who is the loser in this case?

"In this type of arbitration there is seldom a loser or a winner. No money in the world can compensate my client for the damage he has suffered. But if the outcome of this trial had been obvious we would never have agreed to a settlement. I do however feel that we have had a kind of success in a case which was difficult from the outset - the first of its kind," said the man's lawyer, Michael Wilensky.

Region Skåne's legal expert Ulf Jakobsson is also pleased with the settlement. He also knows that it may be seen that the Region Skåne is admitting that an injustice has taken place.

"But we don't admit this. This is a way to close a process that could have cost a lot of money," said Ulf Jakobsson.

One of the doctors that testified that the man was treated inappropriately, Professor Arne Melander from NEPI, feels that it is sad that this case ended like this.

"This case is obvious. The National Board of Health and Welfare issued prescribing guidelines for this type of drug more than ten years ago. There is no question about it. This doctor's prescribing has been completely inappropriate," said Professor Melander.

The 58-year-old has now started a two year long "Minnesota treatment" to end his drug dependency. Despite this settlement he is disappointed that he can't go further with this case but he can't take the financial risk.

"There is no legal protection for the small individual anymore. I can't put my and my family's financial well-being at risk, but I would like to have an admission from the health care system that they got it wrong."

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