US

Prince’s Family Sues Doctor Who Prescribed Him Pain Pills

By Tom Ozimek

Relatives of the late rock star, Prince, are holding a doctor responsible for his death.

An attorney representing the family of the former “Purple Rain” singer said the lawsuit claims that by not treating the artist’s opiate addiction, Dr. Michael Schulenberg failed to prevent Prince’s fatal overdose.

The performer, whose real name was Prince Rogers Nelson, died in April 2016 with an “exceedingly high” level of fentanyl in his system.

Prince performs at the Superbowl halftime show
Prince performs during at Super Bowl XLI on February 4, 2007 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Allegations ‘Without Merit’

Schulenberg has denied any wrongdoing.

His attorney, Paul Peterson, told ABC the new lawsuit is “without merit” and that they intend to fight the accusations.

“We understand this situation has been difficult on everyone close to Mr. Nelson and his fans across the globe,” he said in a statement. “Be that as it may, Dr. Schulenberg stands behind the care that Mr. Nelson received. We intend to defend this case.”

Earlier this year, prosecutors said no criminal charges would be brought in connection with Prince’s death.

Prince performs at the Superbowl halftime show
Prince performs during at Super Bowl XLI on February 4, 2007 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

‘Departures’ from ‘Acceptable Medical Practice’

But a civil lawsuit, filed in a Minnesota court this week, alleges that Schulenberg’s actions played a part.

“He failed to appropriately evaluate, diagnose, treat and counsel Prince for his recognizable opioid addiction, and further failed to take appropriate and reasonable steps to prevent the foreseeably fatal result of that addiction,” reads the lawsuit, a copy of which was published by ABC.

“These departures from the standard of acceptable medical practice had a substantial part in bringing about Prince’s death.”

The suit claims that Schulenberg and others had “an opportunity and duty during the weeks before Prince’s death to diagnose and treat Prince’s opioid addiction, and to prevent his death. They failed to do so.”

Besides Schulenberg, the suit also names North Memorial Health Care, where Schulenberg worked at the time; UnityPoint Health, which operates the Moline hospital; and Walgreens Co., which operates two drug stores where Prince got prescriptions filled.

North Memorial said in a statement that it also stands behind the care Prince received. UnityPoint spokeswoman Vickie Parry said they can’t comment on pending litigation. Walgreens did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Prince performs in Las Vegas
Prince performs at the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, on May 19, 2013. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

Earlier Legal Action

Prince’s family had also filed an earlier lawsuit against the Illinois hospital that treated the performer.

A week before he died, Prince lost consciousness on a flight home from Atlanta, where he had played a concert. The plane made an emergency stop in Moline, Illinois, where he was revived at Trinity Medical Center with a drug that reverses opioid overdoses.

John Goetz, an attorney representing the family in that ongoing legal action, told ABC that Prince’s relatives intend to eventually abandon the Illinois suit.

“The Minnesota lawsuit is against all parties whom we now believe share legal responsibility for Prince’s death,” Goetz said. “But it is possible that we will identify and add other parties as we move forward with the case.”

Goetz said that by filing in Minnesota, the family brings their legal fight to the state Prince considered his home.

“Prince lived in Minnesota all his life and passed away here,” Goetz told ABC News. “So we always thought his family’s lawsuit belonged in Minnesota.”

Fake Pills Laced With Fentanyl

Authorities say Prince probably didn’t know he was taking the dangerous synthetic opioid, fentanyl, when he took counterfeit pills that looked like a generic version of the painkiller Vicodin. Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine.

The source of those pills remains unknown.

American law enforcement agencies and drug control experts say most of the fentanyl distributed in the United States, as well as precursor chemicals, originate from China, Reuters reported.

On the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) website, it noted that many Chinese labs are sending fentanyl to the United States.

“One of the main reasons for the rapid spread of fentanyl is that it offers a high profit margin for traffickers. For example, traffickers can typically purchase a kilogram of fentanyl powder for a few thousand dollars from a Chinese supplier, transform it into hundreds of thousands of pills, and sell the counterfeit pills for millions of dollars in profit,” its website says.

And, according to the DEA, “Mexico and China are major source countries for fentanyl and fentanyl-related compounds.” The drug is often transported across the U.S.-Mexico border or sent via mail.

Last year, a Senate report said that about $800 million worth of fentanyl pills were illegally sold to American consumers over two years by Chinese distributors, The New York Times reported.

Epoch Times reporter Jack Phillips and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times