State of Washington suspends psychiatrist in death of 17-year-old girl

May 29, 2008

On April 10, 2008 the Washington Department of Health suspended indefinitely the medical credential of psychiatrist Andrew S. Hwang. The Department found that Dr. Hwang had committed unprofessional conduct in his treatment of a 17-year-old girl to whom he prescribed 13 different psychotropic drugs between November 2001 and January 2002. The drugs included stimulants, SSRI antidepressants, tricyclic antidepressants, mood stabilizers and tranquilizers. The Department’s Agreed Order states that when the patient’s mother called Dr. Hwang to report changes in her mental status (specifically, that she was having trouble walking, had driven her car into a ditch and was mentally confused), he did not instruct the mother to change anything in the daughter’s drug regimen and to return at her next scheduled appointment, which was two weeks later. By that time, the girl’s status had worsened, with continued impairment of motor skills and confusion. Dr. Hwang did not address these problems or medically assess the patient but added two more drugs (a stimulant and a tranquilizer) to her already complex regimen. Two days later, her parents found her in bed, non-responsive. She was taken to the hospital where she was found to have suffered severe brain damage. She died two days later. The Department found ten instances in which Dr. Hwang’s treatment of the girl violated the standard of care.


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