Suicide Malpractice Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Mosko v. Sheppard Pratt Health System

(Filed April 06, 2016)

Suicide MalpracticeThis is a failure to prevent suicide wrongful death malpractice case filed on behalf of the family of a man in Baltimore County. This case was filed in Health Claims Arbitration on April 6, 2016. It is the 64th medical malpractice case filed in Maryland in 2016.

Summary of Plaintiff's Allegations

A man is being seen professionally at Sheppard Pratt in Baltimore County after being referred due to depression and possible PTSD. When the Sheppard Pratt's doctor meets the man, he notes that he started medication and thought it helped. His notes also say that his is "depressed" and that the decedent denies suicidal ideation. Over the next two years, he continues to prescribe the decedent medication, allegedly without seeing the patient again.

The decedent goes to the ER Carroll Hospital Center by his wife while he is in an intoxicated state, after taking large amounts of Valium and Tramadol. Upon admission, he is assigned a psychiatric diagnosis of major depression disorder, severe and recurrent without psychotic features. Upon discharge, he is assigned depressive disorder and history of post-traumatic stress disorder. The discharge instructions identify the reason for admission as "suicide attempt to overdose pills."

Things spiral out of control from here. The wife gets a protective order against him. He goes back to the house with police to get his things and tries to take a gun out of his safe. He is arrested for possession of an illegal firearm. While incarcerated, he is professionally evaluated by a social worker at Conmed Healthcare Management, Inc. The evaluation states that the man claimed the suicide attempt was not a suicide attempt at all but that he took pain meds for a headache and mixed them with meds to sleep.

As a result of this evaluation, the man is taken off suicide watch. He makes bail and approximately 21 hours after being taken off the suicide watch, he commits suicide.

The plaintiffs file a negligence lawsuit in Baltimore County against Sheppard Pratt and their doctor as well as Conmed the prison healthcare provider, and their employee. The lawsuit alleges that the original prescribing doctor should have followed up with the patient and that Conmed should never have taken him off suicide watch.

Additional Comments
  • There are a lot of cases where the facts are strong from plaintiff because the healthcare providers simply ignored the insurmountable evidence. This case is not as strong. Prison healthcare provider lawsuits after a suicide are tough cases. There is no question that Conmed had a duty to be cognizant of the significant likelihood that this man might imminently seek to take his own life and take reasonable steps to prevent him from doing so. But Conmed can argue that if Carroll Hospital did not see fit to have him hospitalized after his suicide attempt, it is hard to argue that the prison was required to days later and in an environment where suicide would be more difficult.
  • The claim against the Sheppard Pratt doctors is even more difficult. If the allegations are true, we can all probably agree that it is not a great idea to continue to prescribe antidepressants without seeing the patient. But it is going to be extremely tough to link that to his suicide attempt. It is a causation problem.
  • Obviously, prisoners on suicide watch will often deny any intent to harm themselves. But if the potential for lying were the overriding factor in these situations, then inmates would remain on suicide watch indefinitely which is not practical.
  • The argument that a psychiatrist should have been involved in the suicide watch is something plaintiffs would be wise to explore. It is not the standard of care in a prison to involve a psychiatrist but it probably should be and you would think an expert would be willing to take that position.
  • The strength of these cases for plaintiffs is but/for causation. If Conmed had not incorrectly reached the conclusion that the man was not a potential suicide victim because he said he wasn't, then none of the events culminating in this horrible event could have occurred. The defense will call this hindsight analysis.
  • The name Conmed is the worst, right?
Jurisdiction
  • Baltimore County
Defendants
  • Psychiatrist employee of Sheppard Pratt
  • Sheppard Pratt Health System
  • A licensed social worker employee of Conmed, Inc.
  • Conmed, Inc.
Hospitals Involved Negligence
  • Failed to provide adequate follow-up services
  • Continued to prescribe decedent medications for more than two years after the last doctor-patient contact
  • Failure to indicate prescription plans
  • Altered medical records seven months later
  • Failure to perform a thorough and complete psychiatric evaluation; failure to obtain adequate medical information regarding potential for decedent to harm himself
  • Failure to recognize multiple risk factors for suicide in decedent
Specific Counts Pled
  • Negligence
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