Families Seek Accountability For Inpatient Suicides

Feb 2024

In the inpatient department. The corridor has a quiet atmosphere with a modern high-tech design.

Negligent facilities need to be held responsible

Every year throughout the United States, many people considering suicide are admitted to an inpatient mental health facility for protection and treatment to stabilize their mental health condition. One of the most important responsibilities of these facilities is to take measures that prevent patients from taking their own lives. Sadly, these measures are not always followed – and many suicide attempts result in death.

For many years, Skip Simpson has filed successful lawsuits on behalf of family members to hold facilities accountable for neglecting this extremely important responsibility.

“When people go into the hospital to be protected, it’s a systemic issue,” said Attorney Skip Simpson in a Law.com article. “That means it’s not just the nurse, it’s not just the physician, but it’s the hospital itself. What happens is that the money is not spent to properly train and supervise those people who are watching the patients.”

Treatment by unqualified and unlicensed interns

One case filed by an attorney in New Jersey involves Anthony Sun, a 23-year-old pharmacy student who was experiencing depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. After two suicide attempts and stays at two different inpatient facilities, Sun was put in the care of Christian Health Care Center and placed in an outpatient program.

On Dec. 1, 2017, Sun could not be located after his mother came to pick him up. Following a search, his mother found him hanging by a noose from a tree.

According to the lawsuit, most of Sun’s intake assessments – which included an assessment for risk of suicide – and treatment plan were done by a student intern who was unlicensed and unsupervised. The intern made critical errors in both the assessments and the treatment plan, the suit alleges.

Inadequate measures taken to prevent suicide

Another case in New Jersey involves Jaxson, a 16-year-old with female characteristics who later transitioned. Court documents note that Jaxson had attempted suicide and reported thoughts of hanging himself. He was taken to Morriston Medical Center and then transferred to Summit Oaks Hospital.

Measures had been taken at Morristown to prevent Jaxson from harming himself. These measures included having a sitter to watch him, placement in a room across the nursing station with the door always open, and removal of personal articles of clothing.

But these measures were not taken at Summit Oaks. Jaxson was placed in a corner room away from the nursing station with no sitter. He was observed in 15-minute intervals. There were two beds, fully made with sheets. Jaxson was found hanging by a noose made from a bedsheet that was affixed to a heavy wooden door.

The families of loved ones deserve justice

Simpson said 15-minute observation intervals are common for suicidal patients. But the problem, he notes, is that patients who hang themselves lose consciousness after just 45 seconds, and brain damage occurs after two minutes. After five minutes, the patient usually dies.

“They sometimes say, ‘Well, that’s the standard of care.’ And it’s not,” he said. “The standard of care means that they’re on either one-to-one or line of sight. The reason why they want them on every 15-minute watch is because it’s less expensive.”

Simpson also notes that hanging with a bedsheet is the most common method of suicide for people in institutions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate in the U.S. grew by 37% from 2000 to 2018. After declining in 2019 and 2020, the suicide rate grew 5% in 2021 and another 2.6% in 2022.

The Law Offices of Skip Simpson is dedicated to suicide prevention. Attorney Skip Simpson is well aware of how negligence at inpatient facilities can have devastating consequences. When families have lost loved ones to suicide that could have been prevented, he provides compassionate representation and demands accountability.

Learn more about how we can help. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.

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