Joel Burnette committed suicide in February of 2013 after suffering from meningitis and a painful and crippling nerve condition on his spine. According to his family, it was the malpractice of two pain clinic doctors that caused the debilitating conditions and led to their son taking his own life. The family was subsequently awarded $2.88 million in damages, a record setting amount for Johnson County, Kansas where the case was tried.
The 40-year-old patient went to PainCARE clinic in Overland Park complaining of chronic lower back pain. He was treated by Doctor Kimber Eubanks and Doctor Daniel Brunning, two board certified physicians in both anesthesiology and pain management. In May of 2008, the doctors injected medication into Burnette’s back that helped him for a while. When the pain returned in January, he was given an epidural steroid injection. Soon after, a lump appeared on the patient’s back.
According to the lawsuit, the clinic told Burnette that swelling at the injection site was completely normal. When he returned for another injection weeks later, he asked the nurse about the lump. Although she checked with the doctor, the injection continued as planned. An infection spread, resulting in meningitis. He was told the meningitis would kill him or paralyze him, but he survived. Sadly, even after recovery he still was left with overwhelming spinal injuries and pain. He was impotent, had lost control of his bladder and bowels and struggled with walking. By February of 2013, Burnette had taken his own life.
Although the doctors and the clinic claim Burnette’s suicide was caused by pre-existing psychiatric conditions including bi-polar disorder, the jury found the doctors and hospital negligently liable for the man’s death. The jury awarded the family $2.88 million in damages.
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