07/19/1999 – My antidepressant made me do it! – Hartman estate says

The following article makes its first appearance today (7/19/99) on
salon.com:

My antidepressant made me do it!
The Hartman estate says Zoloft was to blame for a murder-suicide.
By Rob Waters

(http://www.salon.com/health/feature/1999/07/19/zoloft/index.html)

My antidepressant made me do it!

The Hartman estate says Zoloft was
to blame for a murder-suicide.

– – – – – – – – – – – –
By Rob Waters

July 19, 1999 | It was May 1998, and comedian Phil Hartman and his wife, Brynn, were planning a party. Their son, Sean, was soon turning 10 and they wanted to make it special with a bash at Planet Hollywood. Brynn was inviting her son’s friends, including some of his classmates from his school in Encino.

In mid-May she called Kathryn Alice, the mother of one of Sean’s friends, to get her address. Sean and Calvin, Kathryn’s son, played together and had visited each other’s homes. Through their sons, the moms had gotten to know each other, too. They chatted on the phone, and Brynn confided that things were tough. “She said she was barely hanging on by a thread,” Alice recalls. “I told her things will get better, but she said ‘I don’t know.'”

The invitation soon arrived in the mail, but the birthday party never happened. On May 28, at about 2:30 a.m., Brynn Hartman returned home from a night out with a female friend. As Sean and his sister, Birgen, slept in their rooms, Brynn entered the master bedroom and shot her sleeping husband three times. Four hours later, with police in the house and friends listening outside, Brynn lay down on the bed next to Phil’s body and pulled the trigger once more, killing herself.

How could this happen? Why did a woman who was, by all accounts, a devoted and protective mother, deprive her children of their parents? In the days after the killings, the tabloids and mainstream press ruminated over the problems in the couple’s often stormy relationship, speculating that Phil was preparing to leave her, or that she had relapsed into an old cocaine addiction. People magazine reported that she had recently started drinking again after 10 years of near-sobriety and had checked into an Arizona rehab clinic earlier in the year. Indeed, toxicology reports cited in press accounts indicate that at the time she died, Brynn Hartman had both cocaine and alcohol in her system.

But the couple’s family and their lawyers have another answer: Zoloft made her do it.

In late May 1999, one year after the deaths, attorneys for the Hartmans’ estate and children filed a lawsuit against Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant that makes Zoloft, a new-generation antidepressant similar to Prozac. The suit contends that Brynn Hartman’s violent outburst was caused by a rare but previously documented side effect of the medication that left her agitated, jittery and “out of touch with reality.” It is one of more than 170 wrongful death lawsuits filed against the makers of these new antidepressants since Prozac first hit the market 12 years ago.

The Hartman suit also charges that Arthur Sorosky, the psychiatrist that supplied Brynn Hartman with Zoloft, was not really her doctor and never conducted an evaluation. Sorosky, the complaint alleges, was actually her son Sean’s doctor and gave Brynn medication samples — the kind doled out to physicians by drug company salesmen — “without the benefit of a history and physical examination [or] diagnosis.”

Sorosky’s attorney, Joel Douglas, told Salon Health that his client and Brynn Hartman had “a doctor-patient relationship” and that Sorosky had prescribed the Zoloft in a proper and appropriate way. “From what I understand,” he added, “with cocaine and alcohol in her system, you don’t need to look for Zoloft to understand what happened.”

Original report on murder/suicide: http://www.cnn.com/SHOWBIZ/TV/9805/28/hartman/

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