CBS 4 (Miami)
South Florida Family Sues Psychiatrist for Son’s Death
Jun 4, 2009
A South Florida family has filed suit against a Fort Lauderdale doctor claiming he is responsible for their child’s death and this is not the first time the doctor has been the center of controversy.
Shrink Sohail Punjwani
Dr. Sohail Punjwani who gave mind altering drugs to South Florida children could soon be going to court to defend his reasoning for prescribing the drugs. The mother of one of the boys spoke out about her son on Thursday.
“He was like a zombie, my son was like a zombie all the time,” said Norma Tringali as she described the final days of her teen aged son Emilio Villamar.
Tringali told CBS4’s Ted Scouten that her son was diagnosed as bi-polar and was treated by Dr. Sohail Punjwani. She claims her son was given a cocktail of drugs and that some that were not approved for children.
Villamar died of a heart attack at 16. Tringali said she was shocked when she heard the same doctor was treating 7-year old Gabriel Myers, who hanged himself April 16th in the bathroom of his Margate foster home.
Investigators are checking claims that he hanged himself, while also on a cocktail of drugs, some not approved for kids.
“When I learned that he was under the care of Dr. Punjwani, I say to myself, I will go forward and talk about it because maybe somebody else can learn from my tragedy,” said Tringali, who actually filed the lawsuit four years ago.
Gabriel Myer’s death spurred DCF Secretary George Sheldon to appoint a work group to study the agency’s use of psychiatric drugs, and its compliance with a 2005 reform law on the use of such medications on children in state care.
Under the 2005 law, the Agency for Health Care Administration oversees a state program that monitors the prescribing of mental-health drugs to children under Medicaid, the state insurance program for the needy.
The program, called the Medicaid Drug Therapy Management Program, tracks the prescribing of mental-health drugs to children, and flags psychiatrists whose practices veer outside generally accepted protocols.
Among the practices that might draw attention: doctors with a high volume of prescriptions of mental-health drugs or potentially dangerous combinations of the medications. The program looks at the practices of about 17,000 doctors who prescribe medications to children on Medicaid, and about 300 to 450 end up red-flagged.
Dr. Sohail Punjwani, who was treating Gabriel and Emilio, had been red-flagged by the medication program every quarter that the list was kept, one of the administrators told CBS4 News partner The Miami Herald.