Psychiatrist files lawsuit

Weitzel sues all involved in his murder trials
By Angie Welling,1228,621,00.html
Deseret Morning News

A Davis County psychiatrist twice tried on criminal charges involving the deaths of five elderly patients under his care filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against what appears to be every agency, and individual, involved in the case.

Robert Weitzel claims his due process rights were violated by the state prosecutions, and a related federal prosecution, and that prosecutors made "false and slanderous statements" to the press and others.

The suit names 21 individuals and seven agencies and governmental entities, including Davis County Attorney Mel Wilson, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, U.S. Attorney for Utah Paul Warner, the Layton City Police Department and the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing.

The Davis County Attorney's Office and Utah Attorney General's Office were unaware of the lawsuit Tuesday afternoon and declined comment on the allegations.

Acting as his own attorney, Weitzel alleges that prosecutors pursued murder charges against him in the deaths of five patients who died under his care at Davis Hospital and Medical Center's geriatric-psychiatric unit despite "full knowledge" that he was not guilty of the crimes.

"Defendants were or should have been aware of plaintiff's innocence, but persisted in pressing the charges of murder," the lawsuit states.

Jurors in 2000 convicted Weitzel of two counts of second-degree felony manslaughter and three counts of misdemeanor negligent homicide. The verdicts were later overturned when a judge ruled prosecutors withheld critical evidence.

Weitzel was tried again on the same charges and was acquitted in November 2002. Weitzel pleaded guilty in September 2002 to two charges of prescription drug fraud in U.S. District Court, and served one year in a Nevada federal prison in that case.

According to Tuesday's lawsuit, the prosecution resulted in the suspension of Weitzel's medical license and has left him unable to work in his chosen profession. Weitzel seeks at least $75,000 in actual damages, plus unspecified punitive damages.

Dr. Weitzel's Website


The Utah Medical Association opposes the criminalization of medical care and sees unfounded accusations of physicians in criminal court and the criminal trial of physicians' professional judgment and quality of practice as a serious threat to patient care in the State of Utah and an unreasonable burden on the medical profession. Although it is acknowledged that the public must be defended against criminal actions, we do not believe that the professional assessment of medical competence necessary to discriminate between medical incompetence and criminal negligence can be judged fairly and knowledgeably before a lay jury in criminal court in the manner contemplated in State v. Warden. Instead, we strongly affirm the following statement of the Kansas Court of Appeals in the public policy defining decision of State v. Narramore:

"When there is such strong evidence supporting a reasonable, noncriminal explanation for the doctor's actions, it cannot be said that there is no reasonable doubt of criminal guilt. This is particularly true in a situation as we are faced with here, where the only way the defendant's actions may be found to be criminal is through expert testimony, and that testimony is strongly controverted in every detail. ...if criminal responsibility can be assessed based solely on the opinions of a portion of the medical community which are strongly challenged by an opposing and authoritative medical consensus, we have criminalized malpractice, and even the possibility of malpractice."

Lastly, we believe that when a medical expert admonishes a prosecutor against filing a criminal complaint, it behooves the prosecutor to reconsider his position and seek the opinion of the Utah Medical Association, the Physicians Licensing Board, or some other regularly established and constituted panel of medical peers. Neither Utah's physicians nor their patients can afford this type of judicial embarrassment. It is a serious threat to good patient care for all Utah's citizens."


From Dr.Weitzel:

The fact pattern in my case (Weitzel v. State of Utah) fits the resolution's wording entirely. I am very grateful that the medical establishment in Utah is finally speaking out on the travesty of this case in particular, and the nationwide trend of inappropriately criminalizing compassionate, standard and entirely legal medical care.

Trial will begin on Oct. 30. Unfortunately, the judge today issued a "gag order" and told me I cannot update my website,, until trial is concluded. I will keep people informed as best I can, though.

Robert Weitzel, MD
[email protected]

The Very Troubling Conviction of Dr. Robert Weitzel

Robert Weitzel, M.D., a board certified psychiatrist, was taking care of geriatric psychiatric patients at Davis Hospital in the winter of 1995-96, when quite a few very demented and highly agitated patients were admitted, basically having been ejected from their nursing homes because of their dangerous and disruptive behavior.

Weitzel tried with psychiatric medications to get five of these patients' agitated, psychotic, affectively labile symptoms under control.  During this attempt four of the patients, average age 86, coincidentally became seriously (and acutely) medically ill, with such problems as GI bleed, sepsis, CVA, and renal failure.  The families of the four (mentally incompetent) patients were advised of this, and offered 1) full ICU workup and treatment, or 2) withdrawal of medical interventions, keeping the patients comfortable while nature took its course.

The families chose to order withdrawal of interventions, and signed advance directives to that effect.

The four patients had almost all previous treatments stopped, and were instead given moderate doses of opiates, and nursing "comfort care".  NONE died immediately on being given opiates, but rather they died later from their underlying pathology.  There was no intent to kill; and no patient WAS killed.  This was standard medical care, avoiding prolonging death, seen every day in every hospital in this country.

The one other patient died (age 91) soon after admission, evidently with a pneumonia and heart disease that preceded any care by Dr. Weitzel.  She was given morphine for clearly evident severe pain, but there was no connection between that and time of death, much later.

Dr. Weitzel was charged by a county prosecutor, years later, with five counts of first degree murder, despite the prosecutor's knowledge that the care was not criminal.

Dr. Weitzel was convicted by a lay jury of lesser charges of manslaughter and negligent homicide, and then sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

After the conviction it was discovered that the prosecution's "star witness", Brad Hare, had recommended another doctor, Perry Fine, MD, as a better expert in this field.  (Hare is a very opiophobic anesthesiologist; Fine is one of the top experts in the country on end-of-life care, and is a bioethicist and anesthesiologist).  The state sought out Fine's advice and listed him as a prosecution witness, but after a thorough review of the records, he told them they should not prosecute, for the care was standard and no crime had been committed.  

Rather than reconsider their case, the prosecutors went ahead with their (now-discredited) star witness, Hare, and got Dr. Weitzel (temporarily) convicted, never telling the defense of the exculpatory and impeaching witness.  However, when this was discovered, a Motion for New Trial was filed and granted, and after six months and a day in prison Dr. Weitzel was released. 

Since then he has been fighting attempts by the state, their backs against the wall, to unethically and unjustly convict him on something, anything, to deflect attention from their wrongdoing.

On November 22, 2002, the jury found Dr. Weitzel "NOT GUILTY" on all counts

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