Can Doctors Be Sued for Patient Suicides?
The Florida Supreme Court is allowing a case involving a 55-year-old woman who committed suicide in 2008 while under the care of her physician to move forward. In 2008, the woman contacted her doctor’s office and described symptoms such as crying spells, mental strain and gastrointestinal issues. Once the doctor learned of this information from his office secretary, he referred the woman to a gastroenterologist and switched her antidepressant medication. Although the patient picked up the prescription at the doctor’s office, she hung herself the next day.
According to the original lawsuit, the doctor failed to recognize his patient’s symptoms were changing. He also did not speak with the patient directly, or refer her to a mental health specialist trained to treat depression. In addition, the doctor also failed to recognize that changing the woman’s drug to Lexapro from Effexor could increase the risk of suicide.
Florida Doctors Can Now Be Held Liable for Patient Suicides
The First District Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the doctor, citing that he did not have a duty to prevent the woman’s suicide because she was an outpatient (not hospitalized and in his control). However, the Second District Court of Appeal reversed the first decision and sided with the woman’s husband (the plaintiff in the case).
According to the Second District Court of Appeal, a statutory duty to treat the woman in accordance with the standard of care still existed. The Florida Supreme Court ruled with the Second District Court of Appeal, meaning the trial can now move forward.
Family members who suspect medical errors caused their loved ones to commit suicide should speak with a medical malpractice attorney to explore available legal options.