Friday, September 3, 2010

Hospital Cleared of Malpractice After Discharged Patient Commits Suicide

1) Early discharge encouraged by involuntary commitment act.

2) Psychiatrist cannot held responsible for unpredictable patient behavior.

3) Patient had follow up care set up.

Hospital cleared in patient’s suicide
September 01, 2010, 01:43 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal Staff

San Mateo Medical Center is not responsible for a suicidal patient who killed herself after being discharged before the end of a 72-hour psychiatric hold, according to a state appellate court who upheld a previous ruling that the treating psychiatrist believed she no longer required care.

The decision filed Aug. 30 holds that Dr. Mina Bak not only discharged Katherine Farley early because of her belief the woman would not harm herself but provided her referrals to other agencies for follow-up help.

Farley was brought to the hospital at approximately 7:15 p.m. June 23, 2006 in an intoxicated state and voicing suicidal thoughts, according to court records.

The emergency room doctor admitted her to the psychiatric ward where her medical history, including past suicide attempts, depression and alcohol abuse, were assessed. The following morning, she told Bak she was still depressed but denied any specific suicidal plan and said she would never harm herself because she was “too chicken” and had a young son. Bak discharged Farley at 2:40 p.m. June 24 and, at approximately 6 p.m. June 26, she committed suicide.

The following August, Farley’s husband, Dave Monroe, and their son sued for medical malpractice, arguing the hospital staff failed to note the “seriousness of her condition and the danger she posed to herself,” did not give necessary care while she was still experiencing a psychiatric emergency and released her too early without instructions for treatment. The suit also alleged Farley was released early because of her inability to pay for medical services and economic status.

In August 2008, the trial court agreed with the hospital that it was immune from liability.

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