Prince’s Family Sues Doctor Who Prescribed Opioids

(CN) – A wrongful death lawsuit was filed in Minnesota state court Friday against a doctor by the family of the late pop star Prince, who said he died two years ago of an overdose of the potent drug fentanyl because the doctor did not treat him for his opiate addiction.

Prince Rogers Nelson died on April 21, 2016 at the age of 57. According to a two-year investigation, evidence showed Prince thought he was taking Vicodin and not the counterfeit fentanyl pills he took the day he died.

In March 2018, the Associated Press received a confidential toxicology report that showed the late pop start had an “exceedingly high” concentration of fentanyl in his body. The drug is a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin.

Minnesota investigators and the county sheriff’s office denied the family’s request for medical records during their state and criminal investigation into the pop star’s death. The family told a Minnesota court they could not decide whether to file a wrongful death suit and the statute of limitations – three years in the state of Minnesota – was approaching.

But in April 2018, the Carver County Attorney’s Office said there was no direct evidence that a specific person gave Prince the drug that killed him, which was announced two years after he was found unresponsive in the elevator of his home at Paisley Park.

Almost simultaneously, a Minnesota doctor agreed to pay $30,000 to settle civil claims with the U.S. Attorney’s Office that he wrote an oxycodone prescription for Prince’s bodyguard, knowing it was for the musician. Dr. Michael Schulenberg allegedly wrote the prescription a week before Prince’s death.

FILE – In this Feb. 4, 2007 file photo, Prince performs during the halftime show at the Super Bowl XLI football game at Dolphin Stadium in Miami. A Minnesota doctor accused of illegally prescribing an opioid painkiller for Prince a week before the musician died from a fentanyl overdose has agreed to pay $30,000 to settle a federal civil violation, according to documents made public Thursday, April 19, 2018. Prince was 57 when he was found alone and unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park estate on April 21, 2016. An autopsy found he died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

Schulenberg’s settlement did not name Prince or refer to the criminal investigation in Carver County, according to reports.

Prescription drugs were found at Prince’s home after search warrants were obtained in 2017 and some were prescribed to Prince’s bodyguard and confidant, Kirk Johnson, who said he did not know that the pop star was addicted to painkillers.

On Friday, Prince’s six siblings sued Schulenberg, the pharmacy chain, The Walgreen Company and a health care provider, charging that they 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,” according to the lawsuit.

The family says each of the named defendants did not meet the “standards of acceptable medical practice” or “pharmaceutical practice” that had a “substantial part in bringing about Prince’s death.”

Michael Zimmer, appointed trustee for Prince’s next of kin, named the Iowa Health System dba UnityPoint Health, Walgreen Co., Schulenberg and North Memorial Health Care in the family’s complaint.

Prince’s family is represented by Minneapolis-based attorney John Goetz with Schwebel Goetz & Sieben.

An email to UnityPoint and Prince’s estate for comment were not immediately responded to Friday afternoon.

Prince and The Revolution’s Grammy Award-winning 1985 album “Purple Rain” sold a total of 25 million copies worldwide and was added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry in 2012.

 

 

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