Are Doctors Liable for Medical Malpractice When Treating Depression?

Posted on June 25, 2014 by Shapiro Law Group

Yes, in certain cases doctors can be held liable for medical malpractice when treating depression. In one tragic case that was brought before the courts, Robert Granicz v. Joseph S. Chirillo, Jr., et al., Case No. 2D12-5244 (Fla. Dist. App. February 19, 2014), a woman committed suicide and her husband claimed that the doctor had committed medical malpractice in treating his wife.

The woman had a history of depression and had stopped taking her usual antidepressants because of the side effects that she was experiencing. She eventually called the physician’s office to tell him that she had not felt right since she stopped taking her antidepressants that were causing the bad side effects.

The woman thought that the feelings that she was having were because she had stopped taking the antidepressants, but was hesitant to go back to them because of the negative side effects.

The physician simply decided to switch her antidepressants as a remedy. Sadly, the next day she hung herself in her family’s garage. Was the doctor liable for medical malpractice in this instance, since he did not try to figure out if the woman was suicidal?

Medical malpractice has a few elements that the court considered and that you should be aware of, these include: (1) a doctor and patient relationship; (2) a duty of care; (3) a breach of that duty; (4) proximate cause; and (5) damages. These elements would have to be proved for the woman’s husband to be successful in this medical malpractice suit:

  • The first element can be proved by simply showing the woman was a patient of the doctor.
  • The second element needs to show that the doctor was required to act as a prudent or well-educated doctor would in such circumstances.
  • The third and fourth elements can be combined and best described as, “but for the doctor’s actions, would this injury have occurred?”
  • The fifth and final element must show that she actually suffered damages, and death would clearly be a damage suffered.

The trial court initially ruled in favor of the physician, but the court of appeals reversed this decision because it understood that the physician did have a duty of care to the woman, and a jury would need to decide the proximate cause and damage elements of medical malpractice.

Physicians do owe you a duty of care, and this applies to treatments for depression. If you feel that this duty has been violated, you should promptly seek the advice of an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

Shapiro Law Group – Medical Malpractice Attorneys Serving the Tampa Bay Area


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