Earlier this month, a New York medical malpractice jury returned its verdict against the defendant family medicine doctor whom the jury found to have negligently treated a patient who had become increasing depressed and anxious, leading to the patient committing suicide, which the jury determined was preventable had the defendant provided appropriate care.
After a two-week trial and about 90 minutes of deliberation, the New York medical malpractice jury awarded the patient’s daughter and son $5 million for their loss of parental care and guidance. The jury also awarded $2.5 million for pain and suffering, and an additional $2.47 million for loss earnings and benefits as a result of the 48-year-old man’s suicide.
The family’s New York medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit alleged that the man went to the defendant family practice doctor on May 2, 2012 to manage his cholesterol. There was no mention in the man’s medical records regarding any complaint of depression or anxiety at that time. When the man returned to the doctor’s office on May 30, 2012 for a follow up appointment regarding his cholesterol treatment, the records indicate that the doctor prescribed Xanax, which is typically prescribed to treat anxiety, but the records did not state a reason for the prescription.
On June 4, 2012, the man called the doctor’s office, complaining about problems sleeping. The man did not speak with the defendant doctor at that time but was nonetheless prescribed the sleeping aid medication, Ambien.
The man saw the defendant doctor on June 6, 2012, at which time the man expressed that he was worried about losing his job. The man told the doctor that he his heart was racing due to his worsening depression, he was having panic attacks, and he had lost six pounds in one week. The defendant doctor diagnosed the man as having depression and anxiety, and prescribed the anti-depressant medication, Lexapro, and renewed his prescription for Xanax. The doctor also provided the man with the name of a psychologist.
Although the man reportedly told the defendant doctor that he did not intend to kill himself, the family’s New York medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit alleged that the defendant should have diagnosed the man as being at risk for suicide based on the rapid onset and worsening of his depression, anxiety, and panic attacks within a one-week period of time. They also contended that the defendant failed to inquire if the man had been taking the Xanax that he had previously prescribed.
The family alleged that the defendant doctor was negligent in failing to diagnose the man with major depressive disorder and failing to immediately arrange for psychiatric intervention. The defense countered that the man’s wife testified that she had no idea that her husband was suicidal and that they had engaged in their normal routines.
After the jury returned its verdict in favor of the family, the family’s New York medical malpractice lawyer stated, “Hopefully, this verdict will remind the medical community to be vigilant in recognizing the factors that can lead to suicide and make sure that persons who seek their help get the support they need. We have made great strides in recognizing the risks of suicide and removing the stigma of seeking help … suicide is preventable.”
If you lost a loved one due to suicide in New York or in another U.S. state for which medical negligence may have caused or contributed to the death, you should find a medical malpractice lawyer in New York or in your 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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