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Family of fentanyl overdose victim files $14 million wrongful death lawsuit against doctor

The family of a Montana man who died of a prescription drug overdose after he was improperly prescribed fentanyl and other opioid painkillers has filed a $14 million wrongful death lawsuit against the doctor who prescribed the lethal drug cocktail. Russell Monaco died in 2011 after being discharged with prescriptions for the fentanyl pain patch and several other opioid painkillers to treat short term post-surgical pain.

According to the family’s lawsuit, Monaco was admitted to the West Park Hospital in Billings, Montana in November 2011 with severe back pain. After undergoing spinal surgery performed by Dr. John Schneider, Monaco was prescribed the fentanyl pain patch, despite the fact that he was not eligible to take the drug under Food and Drug Administration guidelines.

Although Monaco began to show symptoms of a fentanyl overdose, he was discharged from the hospital by Dr. Schneider with five additional fentanyl patches, as well as prescriptions for Valium, oxycodone and hydromorphone. After return home and taking these prescriptions, Monaco was found unresponsive by family members and was later pronounced dead of a “mixed drug overdose (including oxycodone, Fentanyl and other drugs).”

Because the FDA has warned that the fentanyl patch should only be prescribed to opioid tolerant patients, the family’s lawsuit alleges that Monaco should never have been prescribed fentanyl by Dr. Schneider. The lawsuit also alleges that the doctor’s decision to discharge Monaco from the hospital with additional painkiller prescriptions but without providing him with oxygen monitoring or supplemental oxygen to prevent respiratory depression resulted in his wrongful death from a fentanyl overdose.