by the Law Offices of Skip Simpson
The loss of a loved one is devastating
An inpatient suicide is a shock to friends and family. You may have spent time choosing the right facility. You may have placed your loved one into a psychiatric or rehabilitation center, believing he or she would receive increased attention from healthcare providers. Unfortunately, when healthcare providers fail meet the standard of care, or to follow procedures or lack adequate training, inpatient suicides can occur. A suicide might occur because a staff member failed to conduct a regular check of the patient’s well-being. It is not the standard of care to put a suicidal patient on an every 15 minute observation level.
It is estimated 1,500 patients die each year by suicide in our hospitals and many thousands more make non-fatal attempts. Among other factors, investigations have shown these injuries and deaths can be attributed to inadequate staff training in a) how to detect, assess, and communicate suicide risk, and b) how to properly monitor known at-risk patients in the emergency room or hospital.
Dangerous hospital practices persist
Even when clinicians know patients are at elevated risk for suicidal behaviors, antiquated, untested, and dangerous hospital practices persist; e.g., the so-called every 15 minute monitoring level – a routine “intervention” that allows patients 14 minutes and 59 seconds to kill themselves using obvious anchor points, ligatures and sharp instruments.
There is no standard of care that allows healthcare professionals to needlessly endanger patients known to be at risk for suicidal behaviors. Published studies point to improved practice models, use of environmental safety and procedural checklists, and evidence-based training in how to detect, assess, monitor and manage suicidal patients – training that is now accessible, available, affordable, and which establishes the standard of care.
When a patient is at increased risk for suicidal behavior
Suicidality is the most common reason for inpatient psychiatric hospitalization. When a patient is admitted to the hospital because of thoughts of suicide, the clinician and hospital is on notice that the patient is at an increased risk for suicidal behavior. When hospital staff members are aware of a patient’s suicidal tendencies, the hospital assumes the duty to take reasonable steps to prevent the patient from inflicting harm.
Filing a claim can be difficult following a traumatic event. At the Law Offices of Skip Simpson, we provide compassionate representation for family members who have lost loved ones. You and your family have placed a large amount of trust in the medical professionals, from doctors to orderlies. They have a duty to provide their patients with correct diagnoses and to take appropriate action based on the symptoms.
How an inpatient suicide can happen
An inpatient suicide usually occurs in a psychiatric hospital, but can occur in a general hospital. They may have been placed at the facility involuntarily (a court has made a determination that they’re imminently suicidal). They may have checked in to a facility voluntarily.
An inpatient suicide may occur under any of the following circumstances:
- Inadequate suicide assessment
- Improper suicide watch or negligent suicide watch
- An unsafe environment of care
- Failure to remove environmental dangers
- Inadequate policies and procedures regarding dangerous contraband
- Failure to remove shoe laces or belt from patient
In handling an inpatient suicide case, we typically investigate hospital records and patient charts. Our investigation consists of interviews with witnesses and reviews of logs.
Contact our law firm
For a free and confidential consultation, contact a compassionate attorney who cares about people and demands justice. Contact the Law Offices of Skip Simpson. See what we can do for you. Call 214-618-8222 or reach a personal injury lawyer by completing our online contact form.
Retrieved 06/21/12. Reprint by permission.