Gabriel Myers’ psychiatrist
Boy’s county psychiatrist has other issues
Two years after Gabriel Myers’ suicide, his psychiatrist faces increased scrutiny.
By Carol Marbin Miller and Diana Moskovitz
April 25, 2011
On July 18 of last year, Sohail Punjwani was arrested by Miami Beach police officers for driving under the influence and cocaine possession.
In August, Punjwani entered into a pretrial diversion program and will not be prosecuted for the cocaine charges if he completes the program, Miami-Dade court records show.
Punjwani has not been disciplined by the Department of Health, a spokeswoman said.
Although Punjwani declined to comment directly, his lawyer, Brian Bieber, stated: “With respect to the DUI charge, that matter is presently pending in the county court and we are vigorously defending that charge. It is significant to note that the criminal charges have absolutely nothing to do with Dr. Punjwani’s ability to practice medicine.’’
Punjwani provided The Miami Herald with a sworn statement from a consulting doctor who concluded “within reasonable medical and psychiatric probability” that Gabriel’s death was not attributable to Dr. Punjwani’s prescribing practices.
“Gabriel had exhibited impulsive and aggressive behavior well before he was prescribed any medication by Dr. Punjwani, and he had undergone a number of significant and very emotional changes in the several weeks predating his death,” concluded Manuel R. Garcia, a child psychiatrist and lecturer who taught psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of California at San Diego.
According to a police report, Punjwani was driving a black Mercedes Benz northbound on Alton Road when officers noticed he was swerving among traffic, “nearly sideswiping vehicles and then quickly over-correcting this action and nearly striking a curb.”
Officers pulled Punjwani over, and “noticed [he] had a white powder substance around his nostrils Officers also observed that Punjwani “had bloodshot, watery eyes, slurred speech and the smell of alcohol upon him.”
A search of the car turned up a small baggie with white powder in it. The powder turned out to be cocaine.
Punjwani first came under scrutiny when The Miami Herald revealed he had prescribed several psychiatric drugs — some of which were linked to an increased risk of suicide among children — to 7-year-old Gabriel, who hanged himself with a detachable shower cord at his Margate foster home on April 16, 2009.
A report on the case by the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, obtained by the Herald, concluded that “the medications that were prescribed for Gabriel may have contributed to his actions directly prior to and during his accidental death.”
Punjwani, the team wrote, “has already been sanctioned for over-prescribing medications to patients, and, for the age-inappropriate prescription of medications to Gabriel Myers.”
“The combination of the prescription of psychotropic medications to a 7-year-old boy and the lack of proper supervision and/or failure to centralize responsibility of treatment of Gabriel Myers is a significant contributor to his mental state at the time of his death.”