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Protecting the Rights of the Injured for More than 40 Years

Failure to provide mentally ill patient hospital care

The mentally ill often do not get the care that they need, and the severity of their illness is often misdiagnosed. A 30-year old man from Ohio who had been hospitalized a number of times for schizophrenia nevertheless was able to get behind the wheel of a car 18 days after he had attempted suicide. The young man then slammed his car head on into another vehicle killing him and an individual riding in the other vehicle.

Doctors are now relying on a number of medications to treat mental illness rather than provide any long term care or hospitalizations. Though it certainly is desirable that we don't unnecessarily institutionalize such individuals against their will, some sort of acute care is needed for the mentally ill at a time of crisis.

Not providing mentally ill patients with the help they need is medical negligence. Now proving up claims of medical malpractice for failing to understand the severity of psychiatric illnesses is complex and would require an attorney experienced in dealing with such cases. However, such actions are essential because doctors and medical providers need to recognize the consequences of a misdiagnosis.

The failure to diagnose the severity of the young man's condition ultimately has led to the destruction of several lives. Family members of both individuals killed will now likely retain attorneys and pursue wrongful death and medical malpractice actions against the hospitals that let the young man go home. Family members of the young man wanted him to remain in the hospital and felt that he was not ready to come home.

The duration of stay for mentally ill patients has dropped by close to 40 percent during the last 20-years. Anti-psychotics such as Haldol and Thorazine, which represent $18 billion in sales each year, are now largely depended upon by treating physicians rather than hospitalizations. Unfortunately, use of such drugs cannot replace the need of monitored care by medical facilities. As the above incident indicates, we cannot afford to simply let mentally ill patients go home without intensive psychiatric care.

Source: Bangor Daily News, "For a son who heard voices, health care system proves fatally dysfunctional," by Tom Moroney, March 5, 2012

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