Psychiatric Malpractice Attorneys in Connecticut
Failure to Protect a Patient from the Risk of Suicide
Suicide and suicide attempts are serious public health problems that devastate
individuals, families, and communities. Claiming more lives than car crashes,
and more than twice as many as homicides, suicide is the 10th leading
cause of death in the United States according to the Center for Disease
Control and Prevention’s final data for 2015. Depression and other
mental illnesses, or a substance abuse disorder (often with other mental
disorders) are present in more than 90% of people who commit suicide.
When a person who has suicide risk factors comes into contact with the
medical community, whether in an emergency room, a psychiatrist’s
office, or with a primary care physician or family doctor, the medical
profession has a responsibility to help that person as it would with any
another illness. When the proper steps are taken, nearly all suicides
are preventable, which is what makes inpatient suicide so troubling.
Contact RisCassi & Davis, P.C. today to schedule a free initial consultation with our Connecticut psychiatric
malpractice lawyers. We are here to help.
What Is Acceptable Suicide Prevention?
Clinically, suicide prevention begins with a suicide risk assessment. The
failure to conduct such an assessment, or a poorly handled assessment,
can result in the suicide of a patient. Emergency departments are often
faced with important decisions about the care and discharge of patients
with suicide risk. For instance, when a hospital’s emergency department
undertakes to care for a person after a suicide attempt, healthcare providers
will evaluate the person’s physical and mental health. This evaluative
process is complex, detailed, and time-consuming informed by a physician’s
training and experience. It’s an active process in which the clinician
is evaluating suicidal intent and lethality, dynamic meanings and motivations
for suicide, the presence of a suicidal plan, the presence of overt suicidal/self-destructive
behavior, the patient’s physiological, cognitive, and affective
states, his or her coping potential, and epidemiologic risk factors.
The process is complicated by the fact that most suicidal people are highly
ambivalent – they wish to die and they wish to live. And, if they
are planning to commit suicide, they can be unreliable sources of information
on certain issues.
Establishing a Treatment Plan
After a thorough assessment has been conducted, an individual treatment
plan must be designed. Success is more likely when the treatment plan
rests on a solid foundation of data and assessment.
Psychiatrists (and other medical doctors or providers) in Connecticut have
a duty to involuntarily commit a patient who is suicidal or poses an imminent
risk of self-harm if efforts at encouraging voluntary admission fail.
Giving the evaluative process short shrift or failing to appropriately
respond to the clinical presentation can be deadly.
In such instances, a medical malpractice lawsuit may be necessary to hold
a healthcare provider accountable and to ensure that the opportunity to
prevent further avoidable deaths is not squandered. For instance, a psychiatrist
or other healthcare provider may be liable for failing to properly assess
a patient’s suicide risk by failing to learn about prior suicide
attempts, suicidality, and feelings of hopelessness and anxiety, by failing
to take into account the person’s behavior prior to discharge from
the hospital, or failure to adequately obtain and consider data from collateral
sources such as the patient’s family.
Separating Fact from Fiction
There are few medical events more stigmatized or with more popular misconceptions
and myths than suicide. Perhaps the most prevalent myth is that many or
most people who have attempted suicide or expressed suicidal ideation
are “destined” to commit suicide and nothing and no one can
prevent it from happening.
In fact, 90% of those who attempt suicide do not go on to die by suicide.
Although a suicide attempt is a risk factor that places an individual
at a substantially higher risk of suicide than the general population,
99% of people who have attempted suicide and survive are alive one year
after that episode, and 65% are alive 30 years later. If one can get a
suicidal person through the period of crisis that has resulted in an attempt,
most of the time he or she will go on to have a relatively normal life
expectancy and lead a rewarding and productive life.
Seek Justice for Your Loved One
If you feel that a family member or loved one was the victim of psychiatric
malpractice which led to their suicide, our legal team is experienced
in determining whether there is a viable malpractice case to be brought.
If we believe there may be a case, we will gather all of the pertinent
records and review them with the appropriate medical experts so that we
can advise you.
Remember, all such claims in Connecticut must be brought within two years
of the date of the negligence. That fact makes it important to consult
with an attorney with experience in psychiatric malpractice sooner rather
than later. A knowledgeable lawyer can help to ensure that your family
member’s rights are protected.
If a loved one of yours committed suicide while in the care of a medical
professional in Connecticut, call (860) 245-2412 to speak to a qualified psychiatric malpractice attorney in Connecticut.