On December 8, 2016, an Illinois medical malpractice jury returned its verdict in favor of the defendant psychiatrist and his psychiatry practice in a psychiatrist malpractice case in which the plaintiff alleged that the defendants were negligent in the psychiatric care provided to her suicidal husband that led him to commit suicide.
The Illinois psychiatry medical malpractice lawsuit was filed by the widow on January 6, 2012 regarding her husband’s suicide that occurred on February 17, 2011, at which time he shot himself. The wife alleged that she was unaware of firearms in the home she shared with her husband.
At the time of his death, the man had been receiving psychiatric care for depression from the defendants for months. The plaintiff contended in her lawsuit that the defendants owed her husband a duty of care to provide psychiatric services commensurate with the standard of care for a patient suffering from depression so as to prevent him from injuring himself or any other persons because of his psychiatric illness.
The defense argued that the plaintiff negligently failed to take reasonable measures to limit her husband’s access to firearms when she knew, or should have known, of his potential to harm himself. The defendants filed a counterclaim against the plaintiff, seeking contribution from her if they were found to be liable for her husband’s suicide.
The defendants also blamed the man for his own suicide: they argued that the man negligently failed to follow the directions of his healthcare providers and failed to fully and completely communicate all relevant information concerning his psychiatric condition. They also contended that the man recklessly caused injury to himself in a manner that could foreseeably lead to his own death.
This Illinois suicide medical malpractice case is an example of how difficult it can be to successfully sue a psychiatrist for medical malpractice for a patient’s suicide. In such cases, it is undisputed that the patient killed himself and that the psychiatrist did not directly cause the death (the psychiatrist was not on the scene when the person committed suicide and did not advise the patient to carry out his plan to kill himself). Furthermore, many people are convinced that it is nearly impossible to prevent a person from killing himself if he has made up his mind to do so.
On the other hand, a patient who tells his psychiatrist that he presently has suicidal thoughts, and especially if the patient tells the psychiatrist that he has a plan on how to kill himself and has the means of doing so (such as telling his psychiatrist that he has a gun and he is going to shoot himself), may be a preventable suicide if the psychiatrist timely takes reasonable and necessary action to protect the patient.
If a psychiatrist is required to take certain action pursuant to the applicable standard of care under the circumstances, and if the psychiatrist fails to do so and the patient’s suicide is foreseeable both as to the time and manner of suicide, then the psychiatrist may be held liable for his patient’s suicide.
If you lost a loved one due to suicide for which medical negligence may have caused or contributed to the death, you should find a medical malpractice lawyer in your U.S. state who may investigate your suicide claim for you and represent you or your loved one’s family in a suicide malpractice case, if appropriate.
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