Court mulls doctor's role in '02 slaying

Victor Bruscato

Victor Bruscato

ATLANTA -- Georgia's highest court will decide whether a doctor should stand trial for discontinuing medication to a psychotic Gwinnett man who brutally knifed his mother to death in 2002, officials said.

Psychiatrist Dr. Derek Johnson O'Brien is appealing an earlier decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals, which ruled a jury should decide whether O'Brien committed medical malpractice by discontinuing anti-psychotic medication for Victor Bruscato, 48, of Norcross.

O'Brien provided outpatient psychiatric care at a Gwinnett community care center at the time. Online records indicate he now operates in Atlanta.

A few months after O'Brien ordered the medications be temporarily cut off, Bruscato attacked his 66-year-old mother in their Norcross home, bashing her with a battery charger and stabbing her 72 times, officials said.

Bruscato was indicted in Gwinnett for murder but was found incompetent for trial and never convicted. He was committed to Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, where he remains.

The Georgia Supreme Court was scheduled to hear O'Brien's appeal in a morning session Monday.

Bruscato's father, Vito Bruscato, had sued O'Brien for medical malpractice but lost when a Gwinnett court found there was no need for a trial. The elder Bruscato appealed, and the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed the decision.

O'Brien's attorneys argue that Georgia law bars the Bruscato family from shifting the blame for the murder onto the doctor to recover civil damages.

"Victor was aware of his own wrongdoing," the attorneys argue in court briefs.

Meanwhile, Vito Bruscato's attorneys argue his son's psychosis was a direct result of him being deprived of drugs like Luvox and Zyprexa.

Police said Bruscato stabbed his mother, Lillian Bruscato, repeatedly in the body and head at their home on Oneta Drive in Norcross. At the time, Vito Bruscato, who discovered his wife's body, told police his son had the mentality of a 14-year-old.

The younger Bruscato was captured in a wooded area behind their home after allegedly leaving a blood trail that police followed.