Health Care

Suit: Woman killed herself after Olathe doctor got her hooked on opioids, cut her off

Some time around Jan. 19, Jacquelyn Spicer sent one last email to her Olathe doctor, the man who had treated her back pain with opioids for a decade before he suddenly stopped, according to court documents.

Then she killed herself.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in Johnson County court, Spicer’s family accuses Douglas Brooks of getting her hooked on pain medicine and then leaving her with no way to get off it safely after the Kansas medical board ordered him to stop treating chronic pain patients because of his dangerous prescribing patterns.

Brooks didn’t respond to a phone message left Friday at his Olathe clinic, Brooks Family Care. An attorney who represented him before the Kansas medical board didn’t either.

The order issued by the Kansas Board of Healing Arts in October stated that Brooks, a primary care doctor, was supposed to refer all of his chronic pain patients to specialists “without abandoning the patient in need of care.”

But according to the lawsuit, Brooks didn’t do that for Spicer.

Instead, he allegedly cut her off cold turkey, and ignored her requests for a referral to a methadone clinic or other provider who could help with withdrawal symptoms. The lawsuit says Spicer warned him that she was very concerned about withdrawal and contemplating suicide.

“I have had several patients get off high doses very quickly without issues so don’t predetermine your outcome,” Brooks responded on Jan. 13, according to the suit. “It won’t be as bad as you can imagine.”

About six days later, after sending Brooks a final email, Spicer committed suicide.

According to his website, Brooks was the chairman of the department of obstetrics and pediatrics at Olathe Medical Center from 2004 to 2006, before starting a primary care practice.

The suit brought by Spicer’s family says she started seeing Brooks in 2007. From then until the end of 2017 he prescribed her between 240 and 450 tablets of 60-milligram morphine sulfate every month.

The family’s lawyers wrote that Spicer showed signs of opioid addiction and, at one point in 2016, told Brooks she wanted to get off the painkillers. But he didn’t refer her to an addiction specialist and kept prescribing the morphine.

According to the suit, the staff at Brooks’ clinic called him “The Candy Man” because of his “history of freely prescribing addictive controlled medications.”

Last year the Kansas medical board said that an investigation revealed Brooks was negligent or grossly negligent in his treatment of five chronic pain patients.

“He improperly and inappropriately prescribed and refilled excessive doses of opioid/controlled medications, failed to properly monitor the patients’ adherence to treatment, failed to address the red flags for opioid/controlled medications abuse, failed to properly treat/modify his treatment plan, failed to refer to appropriate specialists, failed to address a patient’s presenting illness and failed to properly document within the patients’ medical record(s),” the board’s attorney wrote.

The board ordered Brooks to hand off his chronic pain patients to specialists, submit monthly reports of his narcotic prescribing for a year, complete continuing education courses on proper prescribing and medical record-keeping and pay some of the costs the board incurred in hearing his case.

Brooks’ current clinic advertises itself as a direct primary care practice, a model in which the medical provider doesn’t take insurance but instead charges patients directly.

Unlike some other direct primary care practices, though, Brooks’ website says that his patients are bound to 12-month contracts, rather than being able to opt out of membership on a monthly basis.

According to the lawsuit, Brooks’ patients were charged by the minute. That’s also different from most direct primary care practices, which charge a flat monthly rate for unlimited office visits.

The suit also names Price Chopper Pharmacy as a defendant, alleging that staff at the Price Chopper at 2101 E. Santa Fe St. in Olathe was negligent in continuing to fill and refill Spicer’s prescriptions without warning her of the risks of addiction or notifying authorities about the “excessive opioid/controlled medications” Brooks was prescribing her.

Staff at that Price Chopper pharmacy declined to comment, citing medical privacy laws.

Opioid addiction is a fast-growing problem in Missouri and across the country. Here is a look at some alarming statistics. Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.