President of Arizona Psychiatric Society reprimanded following patient death

December 16, 2007

On December 16, 2007 the Arizona Medical Board reprimanded psychiatrist Stephen O. Morris for failure to diagnose and monitor a patient considered to be high risk for drug abuse; for inappropriate prescribing and for inadequate medical records. Board documents allege that Dr. Morris’ “inappropriate and excessive prescribing” contributed to a 56-year-old patient’s overdose death. Specifically, the documents state that Dr. Morris, who is a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and President of the Arizona Psychiatric Society, “prescribed multiple psychoactive prescriptions often in higher than standard practice doses”; “wrote multiple prescriptions for the same class of medication”; “prescribed methyphenidate [Ritalin] for several months with a higher than necessary number of pills” and “wrote prescriptions too close together in time, indicating over-use or abuse.” Further, Dr. Morris prescribed both a tricyclic (older generation) antidepressant concurrent with an SSRI (new generation) antidepressant whose interaction results in symptoms of “serotonin syndrome,” exhibited by increasing bodily tremors. The Board charged Dr. Morris with deviation from the standard of care for failing to have the patient’s tricyclic blood levels monitored while concurrently on an SSRI and for prescribing a large quantity of tricyclic antidepressants and Ritalin to a patient who was a known overdose risk. It lastly cites that Dr. Morris’ records contain no rationale for the high doses of potentially dangerous drugs he prescribed to the patient or why certain medications or types or combinations were used. The Board found that his records failed to support diagnosis, justify treatment, accurately document results, indicate advice/cautionary warnings to the patient or provide sufficient information for another practitioner to assume continuity of the patient’s care.1

1 Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order, In the Matter of Stephen O. Morris, M.D., Case No. MD-06-0359A, Arizona Medical Board.


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