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Malpractice Rx

Was the patient still suicidal?

We give you facts of an actual malpractice case. Submit your verdict below and see how your colleagues voted.

Vol. 7, No. 2 / February 2008

THE PATIENT. A 30-year-old police officer reports thoughts of suicide. He was under investigation for illegal work-related activities and feared he would have to report his coworkers’ involvement in these activities and lose his job.

CASE FACTS. The patient was voluntarily hospitalized for 4 days and received medication and inpatient psychotherapy. When he was discharged, a psychiatrist prescribed follow-up outpatient psychotherapy and antidepressant and antipsychotic medications. The next day, the officer fatally shot himself.

THE PATIENT’S FAMILY’S CLAIM. The psychiatrist did not adequately weigh the patient’s depression and stressors, including possibly losing his job, and did not properly assess suicidal ideation. Also, the patient’s mother claims she attended the discharge meeting with the psychiatrist and that her son expressed suicidal intentions at that time.

THE DOCTOR’S DEFENSE. The patient believed he could get another job if necessary and was no longer contemplating suicide. Also, he was a voluntary patient and could not be hospitalized any longer without consent.

Submit your verdict and find out how the court ruled at Click on “Have more to say about this topic?” to comment.

Cases are selected by Current Psychiatry from Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts, with permission of its editor, Lewis Laska of Nashville, TN ( Information may be incomplete in some instances, but these cases represent clinical situations that typically result in litigation.

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