If I was 16 year old when I was prescribed Paxil and then Zoloft but have been left permanently impotent from taking them, can I sue?

My doctor told me that I would have no sexual dysfunction because I was so young and, even if I did have sexual side effects, they would go away once I stopped taking the drugs. However, ever since I stopped taking the SSRI’s, I have had erectile dysfunction that has rendered me impenitent. I am now 21 and have permanent erectile dysfunction. Paxil and Zoloft warn of sexual dysfunction but not permanent sexual dysfunction. Do I have a case?

Asked on October 24, 2015 under Malpractice Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

You *may* have a case:
1) First, the issue is whether *at the time* the drugs were perscribed for you, there was evidence (e.g. those studies you mentioned) showing permanent sexual dysfunction; if not, if there was no or little evidence *then* of the consequences or side effects, there would have been no reason for the doctor to worry about them.
2) Even if there was evidence of possible sexual side effects, what were the odds or probability? E.g. say that there a 5% or less chance of permanent sexual side effects, but in reasonable medical judgment, if you were not medicated, there was a 100% chance that your life would be far worse, and, say, a 15% chance you might have harmed yourself, then it may well have been a reasonable decision to medicate you, balancing a small chance of one bad effect vs. a larger chance of other bad consequences if you did not take the drugs. Medicine is not black and white: it's about balancing risks, and the issue is, were the risks properly balanced.
3) Even if you were not warned of side effects, you were 16 at the time: was your parent or legal guardian warned and, possed of the warning, nonetheless made the decision to go ahead with treatment? If your legal guardian/parent had the necessary information, the doctor, etc. likely fulfilled any obligations regarding warning the patient. (You were a minor at the time.)
4) Finally, you believe that the drugs caused your dysfunction, but based on what? Have any doctors tested you and found that was the cause, or are you just supposing that was the case becasuse these drugs may be associated with such a problem? It's not enough for you to think this was the case--you need a doctor or doctors who also, after tests, etc., diagnose the cause.
So while you might have a case, and it is worthwhile for you to consult with a malpractice and/or products liabilty attorney(ies) about the situation, you need to bear in mind that there are some serious issues or questions to be addressed.


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