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Malpractice suit alleges negligence played role in suicide

Families in New Jersey who have lost a loved one to suicide understand how devastating it can be. Despite the tragedy and grief that is commonly felt by families, as a consistently delicate topic, the conversation of possible blame is rarely ever touched. However, one family's medical malpractice suit has raised some important questions, including whether medical negligence can play a role in suicide.

In 2008, a woman who had been suffering from depression called her doctor while undergoing what she referred to as mental strain. After getting in touch with the doctor's assistant, she reported that she had been having several serious problems, including crying easily. When he was notified of the call, he filled out a referral for her to visit a gastroenterologist and also changed her medication. The woman committed suicide a short while later, and she was found on the following day.

Following her death, her husband filed a medical malpractice suit against the doctor who had been treating her. Although the initial rulings were made in favor of the doctor, a court of appeals in Florida ruled that the husband could still proceed with the case. According to the lawsuit, the physician breached his duty of care to the patient by not taking the appropriate action that might have helped prevent the suicide. The case is now pending before the Florida Supreme Court.

While depression might be vastly misunderstood by the general public, health care providers in New Jersey and elsewhere must understand the serious and devastating nature of this and other types of mental illnesses. Mental illnesses often require different types of treatments. Ultimately, when a loved one's death was caused by the alleged negligence of a health care provider, it is possible to seek just legal recourse through the litigation of a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Source: CBS Miami, "Supreme Court Ponders Medical Malpractice In Patient Suicide", Sept. 2, 2015

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Alan D. Bell
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