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Family of Psychotic Man Accused of Stabbing Mother to Death Sues Psychiatrist

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Georgia’s highest court recently decided that the family of a man accused of stabbing his mother to death in a psychotic rage could file a lawsuit against his psychiatrist for medical malpractice. Typically, state law bans families of criminals from profiting from their relative’s wrongdoing in court, but the lawsuit set off a debate over whether that rule could change if a mentally ill patient was unaware of his criminal behavior.

The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Victor Bruscato’s father could file a lawsuit against his son’s psychiatrist, Dr. Derek Johnson O’Brien, for taking his son off of his antipsychotic medications shortly before he stabbed his mother to death. According to court records, Bruscato was assigned to Dr. Johnson O’Brien in 2001 to manage his violent tendencies and sexual impulsiveness. However, in May 2002, Johnson O’Brien took Bruscato off of his antipsychotic medications, claiming that he was worried that he was developing dangerous syndromes as a result. Consequently, Bruscato began to have nightmares and claimed that he heard the devil speaking to him.

Bruscato’s behavior turned violent in 2002, when he attacked his mother with a battery charger in the head and then proceeded to stab her 72 times. His father, Vito, sued the pyschiatrist for medical malpratice at that time, but a judge ruled in favor of Johnson O’Brien. Nevertheless, the Georgia Supreme Court’s decision will allow the case to go forward.