Those who seek care from psychiatrists are often the most vulnerable members of society. Unfortunately, they do not always receive the care that they deserve as the following cases demonstrate:
2013; Massachusetts; $600,000 Settlement:
The patient in this case was a veteran suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. He also reported having suicidal thoughts. The man had actually been in and out of psychiatry wards of hospitals around the time of the incident. At that time, he went to the hospital to see a psychiatrist because he was overwhelmed, not sleeping, not taking his medication, and having suicidal ideations. The treating doctor saw him for approximately half an hour but decided that, due to the holiday weekend, they should pick up on Monday. She discharged him thereafter and he committed suicide later that night. The man’s estate sued the psychiatrist for this scant treatment and premature discharge. They settled for $600,000.
2012; Massachusetts; $107,000 Jury Award:
Here, a woman in her middle thirties was staying at a psychiatry hospital for extended treatment. Doctors had her on a strong course of medications. At one point when she was resting, a man attacked and raped her. She sued her psychiatrists for this occurrence. She claimed that the dosage of medication that they had her on was too strong and made her unable to fight back and stop the raping. The defendants responded that their care was proper and that the rape was unforeseeable. The jury decided that the psychiatrists were at least partially responsible for the incident and awarded the woman $107,000.
2012; Florida; $3,171,000 Jury Award:
This story started off on the right foot. A 66-year-old man sought help for alcoholism and entered a substance abuse facility for treatment. The residing psychiatrist doctor prescribed Lisinopril for the patient’s hypertension. Unfortunately, this had the adverse effect of causing an allergic reaction so the doctor recommended Benadryl. This complicated matters even further by closing the man’s airways; however, instead of sending the man to the hospital, the doctor waited and gave him more Benadryl. By the time he finally arrived at the emergency room, it was too late. He died later that night. The jury awarded the decedent’s family $3,171,000 for loss of support, services, and companionship,
2006; Illinois; $350,000 Jury Award:
The patient in this case saw two psychiatrists on an early spring day in 1999. The very next day she committed suicide. Years later, when her family learned of this visit, they brought suit against the doctors for negligence and medical malpractice. Their suit alleged that their improper care led to her death. Specifically, they failed to prescribe any anti-depression medication. The doctors responded that they only saw the woman once and that this was hardily enough to establish that their care or lack of care was the legal cause of her death. However, the jury disagreed and awarded the woman’s estate $350,000 for pain and suffering and loss of support.
2005; Illinois; $500,000 Settlement:
This tragedy started when a young woman was admitted to a hospital for treatment. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and held for examination. A few days later, she was dead from suicide. Her family sued the treating psychiatrist and hospital for failing to monitor the decedent, notice common signs of depression, or prescribe any medication to abate her symptoms. The defendants denied any negligence and said that the woman herself was the negligent party because she refused medication and tried to escape. These factual issues were never tried at court, however, because they settled for $500,000.