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Former San Diego Chargers Doctor Charged With Gross Negligence in Seau Death

Former San Diego Chargers doctor David Chao was recently charged with gross negligence in connection with the death of Junior Seau. The Medical Board of California alleges that Dr. Chao failed “to exercise caution in the extended use of Ambien with a patient exhibiting signs and symptoms of depression and suicidal ideation.” Seau shot himself to death while taking the prescription sleep drug.

As detailed by the Medical Board, the former Chargers linebacker suffered from depression prior to his 2012 suicide. Nonetheless, Chao prescribed Seau zolpidem, which is more commonly known by its brand name Ambien.

"The use of Ambien is associated with increased incidence of impaired driving and completed suicide," the complaint states. "It should be prescribed with caution in patients suspected of having depression or suicidal thoughts, and in the lowest effective dose."

The Medical Board’s complaint also highlights that Dr. Chao continued to refill Seau’s Ambien prescription even after Seau drove his vehicle off a San Diego cliff in an apparent suicide attempt.

"Notwithstanding the existence of red flags involving patient (Seau) and his extended use of Ambien, Chao continued to prescribe the controlled substance without closely monitoring patient (Seau) for ongoing signs of depression and suicidal ideation," the Medical Board alleges. "For example, only three days after patient (Seau's) vehicular accident occurring under suspicious circumstances following an arrest and jailing for alleged domestic violence, (Chao) issued another prescription to patient (Seau) for Ambien."

As highlighted by Consumer Watchdog, Dr. Chao has faced numerous medical malpractice claims over his career, many of which were filed by former members of the San Diego Chargers. He was also previously cited by the Medical Board for failing to report a drunk driving conviction. The advocacy group also maintains that the allegations against Dr. Chao highlight the need for a California law requiring doctors on probation to notify their patients.

“Even now, after the Board has filed charges accusing him of negligence and improper prescribing, Chao continues to see patients. Californians are not safe in a system that does not tell them when their doctor is on probation or charged with contributing to a patient’s death,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog.

If you or someone you love has suffered from medical negligence, don’t hesitate to contact a San Diego personal injury attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.