Tuesday, November 9, 1999
The Associated Press
RIO RANCHO -- A Sandoval County judge ruled in a civil lawsuit Monday that a retired psychiatrist accused of helping a Rio Rancho woman commit suicide is liable for her death.
Dr. Georges Reding
The family of Donna Brennan filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Georges Reding in September, claiming that he administered to Brennan a lethal dose of the sedative pentobarbital.
Police at first thought Brennan, who had suffered from multiple sclerosis, had died of natural causes. But her family urged police to investigate, and the drug turned up in an autopsy.
The lawsuit alleged Reding, an associate of assisted-suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian, committed malpractice by administering the drug.
The judge made the ruling Monday without Reding present.
The retired Michigan doctor has been on the run since August when he was indicted on charges of first-degree murder, practicing medicine without a license, trafficking in a controlled substance and evidence tampering. "This is the first time a judge has stated that Dr. Reding is responsible because he did not appear or file any papers in this civil matter," Stevan Schoen, who is representing Brennan's family, told Albuquerque television station KOB-TV.
In granting the family's request for default judgment, the judge found Reding responsible for Brennan's wrongful death, battery, breach of contract, infliction of emotional distress and medical malpractice. Schoen has not specified the amount of damages sought, but he said the lawsuit may be able to recover Brennan's lost wages and remuneration for the "loss of the enjoyment of her life" based on life expectancy. A hearing had not been set.
Reding still faces criminal charges, but with Monday's ruling Brennan's family feels some justice has been served.
"He wasn't her physician. He didn't know her," Brennan's sister, Karen Lawler, told the television station. "We felt it necessary to keep going and make sure there was no way he could escape some kind of justice."