Family Blames Suicide On Prozac — (Syracuse Herald)

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Syracuse Herald American (NY)

March 24, 1991

Author: Amber Smith, Staff Writer[]

James Edward Oot pulled his truck off Black Creek Road in the town of Sullivan Dec. 20, where he stopped almost every morning to read the newspaper and drink coffee on his way to work. Then he shot himself, behind and above the ear.

On Christmas Eve, his body was disconnected from life support systems at University Hospital. His family still is perplexed. They think Prozac, the anti-depressant 52-year-old Oot had been taking, pushed him over the edge.

“They’re always telling you to look for the signs. There were no signs,” said his widow, Kathie Oot of East Syracuse.  “He was not the type of person to do something like that. That’s why we suspect the medicine . . . There’s nothing at all that we can think of that would make him do it.”

Dr. Roy Smith of Chittenango said he had given Oot the drug a few weeks before his suicide.

“We had tried him on numerous other medications before, and he came back with different excuses why he couldn’t take them,” said Smith.

The family physician said he wasn’t sure Oot took the Prozac, because he hadn’t followed doctor’s orders in the past.

Prozac, one of the most popular anti-depressant drugs on the market, has been linked to suicidal tendencies in some patients.

Dr. Prakash Masand, a psychiatrist at the SUNY Health Science Center in Syracuse, co-authored a letter that appeared in the February New England Journal of Medicine.

It described a 58-year-old man who tried to hang himself 48 hours after he started taking Prozac and a 28-year-old woman who said she wanted to jump out a window a week after her dosage was increased.

Both patients improved when they were taken off Prozac.

In those cases, Masand said, there was a “clear-cut association which occurred quickly and disappeared quickly.”

Oot’s case isn’t as simple.

Smith said he’s concerned whether the drug led to suicide, “but obviously there is no way to answer that question.”

Prozac is prescribed for patients who have moderate depression, and national studies show from 2 percent to 3.5 percent may get suicidal tendencies.

Scientists don’t fully understand how the drug works, so they don’t have a way to determine how it will affect different people.

Kathie Oot said her husband had a bout of depression 14 years ago. He took Valium for six months and felt better.

Near the end of August, he started feeling depressed again, she said.

Smith gave him some free samples of Prozac. Oot said she still has the Prozac package, with three pills remaining of a 10-dose pack.

“To us, he was his usual self. He didn’t seem depressed,” Oot said. “He was always grouchy, so we didn’t notice any difference. He was just regular old Jim.”
PHOTOAARON GOODMAN/Contributing photographer
KATHIE OOT says her husband was taking the anti-depressant drug Prozac before he committed suicide. The drug, widely prescribed for depression, has been linked to other suicides. With Oot is her granddaughter, 10-year-old Khristin Flinn.

Record Number:  9103240307