Posted: May 9, 2014

A man took his own life after treatments to reduce his chronic back pain from spinal cord injuries produced the opposite effect. Joel Burnette, 40, went to the clinic in Kansas in May 2008 and was given several injections, including an epidural steroid in his lower back. Shortly afterward, he was diagnosed with meningitis caused by a MRSA infection. Burnette was told he would likely be paralyzed or would die as a result. He survived but was left with severe nerve damage to his spinal cord that resulted in impotence, loss of bowel control and an inability to fully walk and perform day-to-day tasks, according to a news report.

After being release from the hospital, Burnette filed a lawsuit against the pain clinic. However, unable to endure his travails, committed suicide before the case went to trial. Burnette’s parents took up the suit to raise awareness of the risks involved in pain injections. A witness for the plaintiffs, a University of Kansas pain specialist, testified at the trial that the procedure performed on Burnette is generally safe. But he warned that if there is even the slightest sign of an infection, the procedure should be postponed since passing a needle through an infected site can spread the infection to the spinal cord. That was what was believed to have been what occurred in the case of Joel Burnette. A jury returned a verdict of nearly $2.9 million.