Late Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell’s widow Vicki has filed a medical malpractice suit against his doctor, claiming that Dr. Robert Koblin “negligently and repeatedly” prescribed Cornell “dangerous mind-altering controlled substances… which impaired [his] cognition, clouded his judgment and caused him to engage in dangerous impulsive behaviors that he was unable to control, costing him his life.” Cornell committed suicide in May of 2017.
According to the suit, Koblin allegedly prescribed Cornell over 940 doses of the anti-anxiety drug Lorazepam between September 2015 and his death . The suit claims Koblin was prescribing Cornell Oxycodone at the same time even though the doctor never conducted a medical examination of the singer, performed any lab studies or clinical assessments.
Among other charges, Vicki Cornell is suing for negligence, failure to obtain informed consent and willful misconduct.
Cornell’s suit alleges that Koblin did not warn the singer about possible side effects of Lorazepam, which include impairment of judgment and rational thinking, diminished impulse control and increased risk of suicide in addiction-prone individuals. The suit claims Koblin knew Cornell was an “addiction-prone individual,” and that Koblin allowed his staff to write many of Cornell’s prescriptions while unsupervised.
The singer, 52, was found dead in a hotel room after performing in Detroit on May 18, 2017. His death was ruled a suicide by hanging, although he had struggled with substance abuse at several points during his adult life and admitted in 2009 that he had been in rehab for an addiction to OxyContin. He said at the time he had been sober since 2002, but Vicky said in an interview earlier this year that his behavior changed after he was prescribed the painkiller benzodiazepine, approximately a year before his death, to help him sleep after a shoulder injury.
“In retrospect I’ve learned it’s not supposed to be given to anyone who’s in recovery, and if you have to give it, they have to be closely monitored and it should not be given for more than two or three weeks, so he relapsed, and in a seven-day period he took 20-something pills, and in a nine-day period, 33.
“He had really delayed speech, he was forgetful, there were moments where I thought there was some confusion,” she continued. “The brain of someone who has a substance use disorder is different from that of … someone who doesn’t. He relapsed.”
Vicky says Cornell’s behavior during his final concert shows the effect the drugs were having.
“He was off-pitch, he forgot words, he walked offstage,” she said. “Chris Cornell didn’t do those kinds of things.” Asked if she believed Cornell knew what he was doing at the time of his death, she said, “I don’t think he could make any decisions because of the level of impairment.”
Autopsy and toxicology reports showed there were traces of several different drugs in Cornell’s system at the time of his death, including Ativan. However, the medical examiner said the cause of death was suicide and that “drugs did not contribute to the cause of death.”
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