A doctor’s wife went on wild spending sprees after the powerful drugs she was prescribed to fight Parkinson’s disease turned her into a shopaholic, a court heard.
Hazel Kennedy’s shopping habit became ‘pathological’ after she was given tablets to deal with a tremor, a judge was told. She also became obsessed by her crafts hobby, making teddy bears and upholstering chairs for up to 48 hours without sleep.
She once placed 200 bids on eBay in a single night, the court heard, with the ‘endless stream’ of delivery vans arriving at her Southampton home a ‘standing joke’ among her neighbours.
London’s High Court was told the retired teacher later discovered she had never had Parkinson’s.
Mrs Justice Yip said the drugs she was prescribed triggered uncontrolled spending in the 56-year-old and nearly destroyed her marriage to retired consultant neurologist Dr Philip Kennedy, who suspected Parkinson’s when she developed a left arm tremor in 2006.
He asked a former colleague, Dr Jonathan Frankel, a specialist in movement disorders, to see his wife privately, but free of charge. He prescribed dopamine agonists, which act on the nervous system, after diagnosing Parkinson’s, the court heard.
The judge said the drugs were known to trigger behavioural changes – including impulse control disorder (ICD) – in some patients.
Concerns over Mrs Kennedy’s spending first began to surface when she ‘discovered eBay’, said Mrs Justice Yip, adding: ‘She had some orders sent to her mother’s home so that her husband would not see how much she was ordering.’
By 2010, Dr Kennedy noticed his wife was ‘spending more time and money on her hobbies’. It eventually became ‘pathological’, he said, and she began to develop symptoms of psychosis. A specialist Parkinson’s nurse wrote to Dr Frankel in 2011, concerned Mrs Kennedy had ‘developed an ICD in the form of compulsive buying’.
In a ruling last week, the judge said when Dr Frankel saw Mrs Kennedy in October 2011, he should have advised her to reduce her dose or switch medication. Finding Dr Frankel breached his duty of care to Mrs Kennedy, the judge said: ‘A change in medication at this time would have led to her recovering quickly from the ICD.’
The court heard Mrs Kennedy managed to come off the drugs in 2013 after another doctor confirmed she did not have Parkinson’s.
Finding in Mrs Kennedy’s favour, the judge said Dr Frankel had acted in good faith, but ‘he fell below the required standard of care’.
The ruling means Mrs Kennedy is entitled to compensation for the impact ICD had on her after the 2011 consultation. The judge urged both sides to reach an agreement on the amount of compensation.