More MS news articles for September 1999

Dead Woman's Family Sues Reding

Tuesday, September 28, 1999

By Jeremy Pawloski
Journal Staff Writer

Donna Brennan's family has filed a malpractice and wrongful death suit against Dr. Georges Reding for his alleged role in the Rio Rancho woman's death.

Brennan, a 54-year-old multiple sclerosis patient, died last August after taking a dose of pentobarbital, a sedative. The suit alleges that Reding committed malpractice by administering the drug.

"On or about Aug. 30, 1998, Donna Brennan became a patient of Defendant Georges Reding, at which time he undertook ... to treat and care for Donna Brennan," reads the suit. "... Defendant breached the duty of care which he owed to Donna Brennan under the state laws of New Mexico."

Attorney Stevan Schoen, who is representing Brennan's sister Karen Lawler in the suit, said a doctor administering a lethal drug to a patient clearly constitutes malpractice.

"It is my understanding that the American Medical Association has interpreted the code of ethics for the medical profession to mean that physicians should not and can not assist in the death of a patient," he said in an interview Monday.

Michael Schwartz, a Michigan attorney who has represented Reding in the past, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Schoen did not put a dollar figure on the amount of damages Brennan's family is seeking, but said they may be eligible to recover her lost wages and remuneration for the "loss of the enjoyment of her life," based on life expectancy.

Schoen said a letter written by the AMA to the Michigan Attorney General's Office in 1995 clearly states the AMA's position on assisted suicide. The AMA wrote the letter as a response to the assisted suicides allegedly being committed by Jack Kevorkian. Reding was a Kevorkian associate. "Physician-assisted suicide is simply incompatible with the physician's role as healer," reads the letter written by the general counsel of the AMA. "When faced with patients who are terminally ill or suffering, physicians must relieve their suffering by providing adequate comfort care." Reding has been charged before with Kevorkian in connection with assisted-suicide deaths, but he was not prosecuted.

The civil lawsuit was filed earlier this month in 13th Judicial District Court.

Reding also faces first-degree murder charges for his alleged role in Brennan's death. He was supposed to be arraigned Sept. 3 on the murder charges, but failed to show up for his court date.

In an affidavit for a search warrant of Reding's Galesburg, Mich., home, police alleged that rental car, airline and hotel records placed Reding in Albuquerque the day before Brennan's Aug. 30, 1998, death.

Reding's whereabouts are unknown. A warrant has been issued for his arrest, but the Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Department in Michigan has been unable to locate him at his Galesburg address, said Detective John Francis of the Rio Rancho Department of Public Safety.

Francis said he did not know if Reding has left the United States. At Reding's scheduled arraignment, Katherine Watson of New Mexico Death with Dignity said members of Reding's office told her Reding was on vacation in Europe.