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8:48 am, January 13th, 2013
WINNIPEG — A Manitoba teen who blames the antidepressant Prozac for causing him to fatally stab his friend is suing three doctors who treated him in the months before the killing, claiming they should pay up if his victim’s kin win a lawsuit against him and members of his family.
In what appears to be a Manitoba first, the now-19-year-old has launched a third-party claim for financial damages against two psychiatrists and a physician who he says treated him at various points between June-September 2009.
“The killing would not have happened if: Dr. David Miller had not prescribed Prozac; Dr. Robert Steinberg had cancelled the Prozac prescription (and if) Dr. Keith Jenkins had not increased the Prozac prescription,” the killer alleges in recently filed court documents.
The claim effectively asks the Court of Queen’s Bench to transfer any financial liability for Seth Ottenbreit’s death the killer may be found to have onto the three doctors.
Ottenbreit’s mother, Donna Noble, is in the midst of suing the killer, his parents and a grandparent.
The killer also seeks unspecified “special damages” from the physicians to foot the bill for his legal fees stemming from his high-profile criminal case.
The man pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced as a youth to seven years of custody and conditional supervision in November 2001 for the fatal knifing of Ottenbreit, 15, in West St. Paul on Sept. 20, 2009.
Court heard Ottenbreit was stabbed after he damaged a piece of hardwood floor at the killer’s parents’ home. The two were sitting in the garage talking when the accused reached under a blanket, pulled out a knife, and stabbed Ottenbreit in the abdomen.
A U.S. psychiatrist hired by the defence to offer expert evidence told court giving the then-teen Prozac and ignoring the signs it was only worsening his situation was “a prescription for violence” which drove him into a “state of severe agitation.”
Some studies have linked the drug to emotional and behavioural disturbances in children. Health Canada does not recommend prescribing the drug to children or youths under age 18.
Provincial Court Judge Robert Heinrichs ruled the drug “clearly affected (the youth) in an alarming way.” While in custody, he stopped taking Prozac and was deemed not to be a public danger any longer, the judge said.
The killer’s claim against his doctors outlines how he started taking Prozac by prescription on June 24, 2009, and describes warning signs the medical system allegedly missed or ignored prior to the killing.
All three doctors named in the lawsuit are accused of negligence. They have not filed statements of defence and the allegations against them have not been proven. The killer’s civil lawyer, Gene Zazelenchuk, could not be reached Friday for comment.
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‘Prozac defence’ stands in Manitoba teen’s murder case
‘Tom Blackwell 11/12/07
| 07/12/11 | Last Updated: 07/12/11 4:29 PM ET
A Winnipeg judge’s ruling that a teenage boy murdered his friend because of the effects of Prozac will not be appealed, confirming an apparent North American first and reviving debate around the widespread prescription of anti-depressants to young people.
Justice Robert Heinrichs concluded the 15-year-old boy was under the influence of the medication when he thrust a nine-inch kitchen knife into the chest of Seth Ottenbreit, a close friend.
Although the killer pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, the judge cited the drug’s alleged side effects as a reason not to raise the case to adult court, and to mete out a sentence last month of just 10 months – on top of two years already spent in jail.
A spokeswoman for the Manitoba Justice Department said this week prosecutors have decided not to appeal the provincial-court decisions, which were earlier met with outrage from Mr. Ottenbreit’s family and friends.