Man sues psychiatrist in wife's fatal overdose

January 19, 1994|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

The husband of a woman who died in 1989 after taking an overdose of an anti-depressant filed suit yesterday against the Crofton psychiatrist who prescribed the drug.

The suit, filed in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, claims that Dr. Clifford L. Culp Jr. was negligent in his treatment of Susan Hope Baker, a mother of two who died Oct. 15, 1989, at Kimbrough Army Community Hospital at Fort Meade.

Kevin Baker, Mrs. Baker's husband, is asking for unspecified "compensatory damages" from the doctor.

Mr. Baker, a 40-year-old Navy petty officer, was stationed at Fort Meade in 1989 and now is serving in Anchorage, Alaska. He claims in the suit that Dr. Culp was retained to treat his wife for depression a month after she was released from Taylor Manor Hospital in Ellicott City.

Dr. Culp met with Mrs. Baker twice in his office, but he never consulted with her social worker, marriage counselor or physicians at Taylor Manor, where she was treated after she slashed her wrists, the suit charges.

Instead, he prescribed the drugs that killed her, Mr. Baker charges. Dr. Culp "negligently ignored and disregarded her suicidal tendencies by providing her with a lethal dosage of desipramine," his suit claims.

Dr. Culp said yesterday that he provided competent care for Mrs. Baker. But he said her death nine days after she was admitted to Kimbrough for the overdose came from problems with her treatment at the hospital, not his prescription.

Kimbrough recently paid Mr. Baker $450,000 to settle a malpractice suit he filed against the hospital in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

John G. Gill Jr., Mr. Baker's lawyer, said the parties to that suit could not discuss the settlement.

But he said that his client filed the suit against Dr. Culp after the state Health Claims Arbitration Board awarded him $120,000 in a complaint against the psychiatrist.

"I think in terms of the doctor's culpability, we feel a lady's life is worth more than that," he said.

Dr. Culp said he testified for Mr. Baker in his suit against the hospital and that he turned over personal observation notes about Mrs. Baker that were used against him in the arbitration proceeding.

"They won their case against the hospital, and now they're coming after me," he said.

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