Brian Harvey, the husband of Phyllis Harvey, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Mrs. Harvey’s psychiatrist alleging negligence, fraud, fraudulent concealment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Mrs. Harvey’s psychiatrist, Dr. Alexander Bystritsky, is accused of causing Mrs. Harvey’s death by prescribing her dangerous combinations of drugs that altered her heart rhythm. Bystritsky began treating Harvey in 2004, five years after she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and early dementia/schizophrenia. None of these diagnoses were ever fully confirmed by tests.
The lawsuit alleges that Bystritsky may have had an ulterior motive while he was treating Mrs. Harvey; apparently he coaxed $490,000 in research funding from Mrs. Harvey while she was under powerful doses of psychotropic drugs. Psychotropic drugs alter one’s perception, emotions, and behavior. Mrs. Harvey would appear to be a suitable target given Mr. Harvey’s financial situation. Mr. Harvey earned a fortune by selling an invention for coating electronic wires with recycled metal from beer cans. When Mr. Harvey sold the company, he and his wife formed the Brian and Phyllis Harvey Foundation to fund scholarships and other donations. The lawsuit claims Bystritsky knew of the couple’s wealth and charitable giving and entrenched himself into their lives with house calls, long chats, and email with Mrs. Harvey while treating her undiagnosed mental illness.
Despite the uncertainties surrounding Mrs. Harvey’s diagnoses, Bystritsky prescribed her with several psychotropic drugs including Seroquel. The lawsuit contends that Seroquel killed Mrs. Harvey by causing sudden cardiac arrest. In the two months before her death, Mrs. Harvey was receiving nine different drugs including sedatives, a drug for schizophrenia, and Seroquel. Heavy doses of drugs in large volumes led to hospitalizations for overdoses. When physicians would discontinue Mrs. Harvey’s medications, Bystritsky resumed prescribing them when she was discharged. These prescriptions caused Mrs. Harvey to become delirious and suffer from hallucinations. The lawsuit contends Bystritsky did so to convince Mrs. Harvey to give large donations to research a device that might cure her.
Bystritsky is the head of the anxiety disorders program at UCLA, and a partner in a privately held company called Brainsonix which is collaborating with UCLA and Harvard Medical School to develop an ultrasound device that modulates brain function and treats brain disorders.