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Doctor accused of negligence related to the suicide of NFL's Seau

Ohio pro football fans likely remember Junior Seau, the star linebacker who played for the San Diego Chargers. He committed suicide in 2012, and now the team's former doctor has been charged with gross negligence for prescribing sleep medication to Seau before the suicide.

The doctor, David Chao, prescribed the sleep drug Ambien to Seau 14 times during the last 18 months of Seau's life, according to the accusation filed by the California state medical board. The accusation states that Ambien is associated with suicide and impaired driving. In 2010, Seau drove his car off a cliff after being accused of domestic violence. He told authorities that he had fallen asleep at the wheel. Chao prescribed Ambien to Seau three days later.

Seau shot himself in the chest in 2012. After his death it was discovered that he had the brain condition chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is linked to head trauma in football players. Depression is a symptom of CTE. The accusation against Chao states that he continued prescribing Ambien without monitoring Seau for signs of depression or thoughts of suicide.

Chao's attorney denies the charges, stating that the coroner's office found no evidence of Ambien use being a cause of Seau's death. Chao has been an NFL injury media analyst since he resigned as the team's doctor in 2013. In 2014 he was placed on a five-year probation by the medical board for issues involving other patients.

Medical malpractice can take many forms, and the improper prescription of medication can be one of them. An attorney representing a harmed patient or the surviving family members of a deceased one will look at a variety of evidence to see if such action constituted a failure to abide by the required standard of care.

SOURCE: Columbus Dispatch, 'Medical-malpractice claims fall to record low in Ohio", Alan Johnson, May 2, 2014

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