Posts Tagged ‘suicide lawyer’

What Can You Do to Make a Loved One’s Hospital Stay and Discharge Safer?

If your loved one is about to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital because he or she is suicidal, this is a blog you should print out and take with you to the hospital. It could save your loved one’s life.

Texas suicide lawyerWhen a loved one is in the hospital, we assume that the care is high quality and, most of all, safe. We feel relieved that our loved one is finally being properly protected while he or she is enduring a suicidal crisis.  We expect constant and safe round-the-clock trained nurses or psychiatric techs properly watching our loved ones to make sure all is well. We expect a properly trained psychiatrist giving hospital staff proper orders to protect our loved ones. We expect hospital leadership working hard to make the hospital safe.

Sadly, inpatient suicide—when a person takes his own life in a hospital or kills herself in a healthcare facility—is all too common. In fact, inpatient suicides occur six times a day every day of the year.

This is particularly egregious because the reason the patient is hospitalized is to keep the patient safe from suicide.

Sadly, unless hospitals abide by proper safety rules, the psychiatric hospital can be dangerous for suicidal patients … not as dangerous as not being hospitalized, but the hospital danger is a needless danger.  The mental health literature has clearly set forth safety rules for psychiatric hospitals for over 20 years, but many hospitals are turning a blind eye to the lessons of the literature primarily because of greed. There are obvious exceptions like Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, but the exceptions are rare.  The hospitals do not want to spend money on properly training staff or making sure the hospital is environmentally safe for a suicidal patient.  In addition, hospitals are understaffed so that the nurses and techs cannot keep up with properly protecting their patients.

What Families Can Do to Foster Suicide Prevention Awareness

Texas suicide lawyer Skip Simpson knows how vulnerable certain patients can be during their stay in a healthcare facility due to improper suicide watch and broken safety rules. He believes it is important for families to be aware of the statistics in order to foster as much suicide prevention awareness as possible.

Suicidality is the most common reason for inpatient psychiatric hospitalization. When a patient is admitted to the hospital because of thoughts of suicide, the clinician and hospital is on notice that the patient is at an increased risk for suicidal behavior. To be extra clear, the hospital knows it is likely a suicidal patient will attempt suicide in the hospital if the patient is not properly protected.

When hospital staff members are aware of a patient’s suicidal risks, the hospital assumes the duty to take reasonable steps to prevent the patient from inflicting harm. Obviously if the hospital staff does not know the proper safety rules or does not want to spend the money to learn them, the “reasonable steps” concept is ditched and the chief executive and finance officer just hopes for the best … just rolls the dice with patient safety.

An inpatient suicide may occur under varying types of circumstances. These circumstances all relate to violations of safety rules from inadequate suicide assessment, negligent suicide watch, an unsafe environment, inadequate policies and procedures regarding dangerous contraband like shoe laces or belts (to mention only a few).

What can the loved one do when their loved one is being admitted to a hospital for protection from suicide?

1) Make sure hospital staff knows exactly what your loved one has said about suicide or what steps your loved one has taken towards ending his or her life. You can ask your loved one before getting to hospital if he or she has thought about suicide. If yes, ask how he thought about doing it. Ask what steps he or she has taken, like buying a gun, getting a rope, hoarding pills, thinking of jumping from a bridge, or jumping in front of a car.

Make sure the hospital staff knows the answers to these questions.  Why? Because you cannot be sure hospital staff will ask them!

Make sure you see staff document what you say.

2) Ask who will be assessing your loved one for suicide and what their qualifications are to do so.  Don’t be embarrassed to be proactive. Be nice but be firm. You want your loved one protected…the more you are showing your concern the more concern your loved one will receive hopefully.

3) Tell the staff you want to be a part of the treatment team.  If there is a decision about your loved one’s care you want to be a part of that decision.

4) Encourage your loved one to sign a waiver of confidentiality so you can be kept informed by the staff of what your loved one is saying about suicide.  Patients often demand to be released and claim they are not suicidal so they can get out of the hospital…frequently so they can attempt suicide. Pressing for discharge can be a risk factor for suicide.

5) Tell staff you want to know what was learned in the suicide risk assessment. You may be able to shed light on what your loved one is telling the psychiatrist or nurse.  There are many reasons why your loved one may not “tell all” and your knowledge can make a big difference.

6) Determine how often the psychiatrist will visit with your loved one in the hospital.  Tell the psychiatrist you would like a brief call updating you on your loved one’s condition and the plans for your loved one.

7) Determine what level of observation your loved one will be on. In other words, will he or she be watched constantly? If not, how often? If you are told your loved one will be watched every 15 minutes, remind the staff that if your loved one attempts suicide by hanging, it only takes 2-3 minutes to have irreversible brain damage and 6-7 minutes to be dead.  Then ask, “How 15 minutes is protective?” Again, be firm and be an advocate for your loved one. The hospital patient’s advocate is employed by the hospital. You are the only true advocate for your loved one.

8) Ask if there is a bathroom door inside the patient’s room. If so this is where patients hang themselves using a sheet or clothing to hang over the door wrapped as a noose.

9) Ask how often your loved one will be properly assessed for suicidal thinking.

10) Ask how the staff monitors for behavioral signs and symptoms of suicide.

11)  If the staff or psychiatrist wants to relax suicide precautions to less than constant tell the staff you want to be notified to discuss this with staff.  You will want to know if there has been significant, stable, and reliable change in your loved one to warrant a step down in protection. Remind the staff that hanging is the number one way patients die by suicide in a hospital. Remind staff that ordinarily this is done in the privacy of the patient’s room or bathroom.

12) If a staff member acts rude with you or to your loved one, insist to see the staff member’s supervisor and explain you concern. Suboptimal staff-patient relationships are a risk factor for suicide. You want your loved one to have hope and not to feel like he is a burden or no one cares.

13)  When it comes time for discharge from the hospital, again make sure you are part of the discharge process. If you don’t feel like your loved one is ready for discharge say so and tell staff why. Again, make sure you see staff document your disapproval in the chart.

If staff insists on discharging your loved one ask to speak to the CEO of the hospital. If all else fails, call 911 and report that your loved one who you believe is still suicidal is being discharged from a psychiatric unit.

14) If you feel your loved one is safe for discharge make sure your loved one’s transition to outpatient care is smooth and immediate. Why? Post discharge of psychiatric patients admitted to a hospital for suicidal protection, is a very dangerous high risk time for a suicide attempt.

15) Very important: Make sure all guns are removed from your home, your car (check carefully under the seats, glove compartment, trunk… think like a police officer who is checking for drugs), your relatives and friends homes and cars, and anywhere in sheds or other hiding places around the home or apartment.   Skip Simpson, in making this list, has handled cases where guns were hidden and used post discharge.

16) Ask hospital staff how many suicides have occurred in the hospital in the last 5 years. Get an answer from someone.

17)  Ask staff what they do to ensure the hospital is safe for your loved one.  Do they have suicide prevention committee meetings? Do they utilize a Failure Mode and Effect Analysis? This analysis thinks of ways that patients could suicide in a hospital and fixes what needs to be fixed before a suicide occurs.

Patients, Families Suffer When Safety Rules Are Ignored by Hospitals

The hospital has lots of patients. You have one loved one who needs protecting. Make sure your loved one is on the top of the hospital’s list to protect.

The suicide prevention literature makes the who, what, where, why and how of inpatient suicide very clear. There is no guess work in making psychiatric hospitals safe.  When the safety rules are not followed, only the patients and their loved ones suffer the consequences.  Not the financial statement of the hospitals or the hospital leaders.

If you lost a loved one due to inpatient suicide, you may be able to pursue insufficient suicide watch compensation or recover damages for suicide in a hospital. For a free and confidential consultation, contact a tough yet understanding lawyer who can help you seek the justice you deserve. Contact Skip Simpson Attorneys and Counselors by calling 214-618-8222 or completing online contact form.

Military Suicides Higher Than Combat Deaths

Texas suicide lawyerNew data released from the Pentagon indicates that in 2012,  there have been more active-duty soldier deaths attributable to suicide than combat.

Texas suicide lawyer Skip Simpson praises Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for putting his finger on one of the main problems of military suicides.

Last month, Panetta said military leaders need to be held accountable for prevention. He said suicide has become an epidemic in the military, with an average of one soldier a day committing suicide – about 33 each month. To raise awareness, he ordered the military to “stand down” for a single day.

These are men and women who put their lives on the line every day for us. We – and specifically the military leadership – have a duty to protect them from harming themselves, as they cope with the tribulations of returning home after living through the horror of war.

Service data indicates that Army soldiers in particular are struggling. The suicide rate among Army soldiers has tripled since 2004, with about 10 for every 100,000 a month in that year to nearly 30 for every 100,000 this year. In July, a record 38 Army soldiers committed suicide.

These figures don’t include the number of retired veterans, who reportedly commit suicide on an average of 18 per day.

Panetta was quoted by various media as saying that leaders must be sensitive to the issue and aware of the warning signs – and they have to be aggressive in addressing it. Seeking help, he said, must be viewed as a sign of courage, not weakness.

Unfortunately, this has not always been the case. Newsweek recently profiled a number of soldiers who had either committed or attempted suicide. One of the latter says that as he sat in the hospital after purposely crashing his motorcycle on the freeway, his father begged him to get help. When he went to his superior, he was told he could be sent to the on-base mental health unit, but that his career might be negatively affected. He was waiting on a promotion to commander, and told that seeking help could put his chances of that position at risk. He declined to get help.

Likely the superior who advised his subordinate not to go to the mental health unit was genuinely trying to help his subordinate by relying on his own experiences with the military. Until recently, going to a mental health clinic spelled the end to a military career. Often, security clearances were pulled, which was the kiss of death.

Until Panetta’s directives to the military leadership become operational and are religiously followed, military suicides will continue at the same alarming rates, Skip Simpson says. VA hospitals and clinics have received Panetta’s message loud and clear and are clearly superior in suicide prevention compared to civilian hospitals and clinics.

As a Texas suicide lawyer, Skip Simpson knows this is not how it should be, and it’s a positive step that the military is beginning to recognize this. But there is still a long way to go.

Part of prevention is recognizing the warning signs. Some of those include:

Sudden behavior or mood changes;

Writing or talking about death or ways to die;

Displaying risky or reckless behaviors;

Expressing hopelessness about the future;

Giving away valuables;

Making arrangements for pets or children;

Spending money erratically;

Withdrawing from others;

Preparing a will;

Sleeping or eating disturbances;

Increased drug or alcohol use;

Displaying rage, anger or a desire for revenge.

If you lost a loved one to suicide, contact the Dallas Law Offices of Skip Simpson, dedicated to holding mental health counselors accountable. Call 214-618-8222.

Mental Health Standard of Care Crucial After Suicide Attempt and Discharge from Emergency Room or Inpatient Psychiatric Facility

Psychiatric patients who have attempted suicide and are mostly likely to try again to end their lives are some of the least likely to follow up with mental health treatment after being released from a hospital, according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.

The resource center and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recommend that a discharged psychiatry patient should be sent home with “linkage to certain and effective treatment,” according to the 2011 publication, “Suicide Attempts and Suicide Deaths Subsequent to Discharge from an Emergency Department or an Inpatient Psychiatry Unit: Continuity of Care for Suicide Prevention and Research.”

Unfortunately, even discharged patients with  suicide risk may not receive the follow-up psychological treatment they need.

Nationally recognized  Texas suicide lawyer Skip Simpson considers  standard of care (patient safety rules) for suicide patients to be of utmost priority at all times, including the days and weeks after an Emergency Department or inpatient  mental health facility discharges a patient.

Unfortunately, however, frequently suicidal patients do not always get the mental health care they need. “Many patients never make it to their first follow-up appointment,” says the report, “and many that do, do not remain in treatment long enough for continuing care to be successful. For both EDs (emergency departments) and inpatient discharges, the risk for suicide attempts and death among all age groups is highest immediately after discharge and over the next 12 months to four years. “

Simpson concurs. “The standard of care requires that all suicide risk assessments be documented in the record,” he explains. “If a clinician fails to perform, or improperly performs, an assessment, or if the clinician unreasonably underestimates the patient’s risk, she may well be liable if the patient dies by suicide, or makes a suicide attempt. Failure to take certain actions is unacceptable.”

With over 36,000 people taking their own lives every year in this country, it is vital for anyone who was recently released from a psychiatric unit or ED to follow up with proper mental health treatment. Those first few hours, days, and weeks after discharge are when a suicidal person is most vulnerable and may try to take his or her own life. Skip Simpson stresses this research perfectly matches what he sees in his practice over and over again.  He reviews about 50-60 suicide cases every year and hears suicide survivors say “if I had only known.”  This blog is an attempt to give loved ones the knowledge they need before a tragic attempt occurs.  It is also at attempt to give clinicians an opportunity to avoid the pain of having their patient seriously harm or kill themselves.

If you are a clinician who is reading this blog please get the training you need. Demand the training from your place of employment. If your employer will not provide the training because of budget concerns take the time to train yourself.  There is plenty of information on the internet to enable you to become more competent in suicide prevention.  Families are handing their loved ones over to you so you can keep them safe until they are properly treated.

If your loved one committed suicide or attempted suicide, whether as an inpatient or after coming home from the hospital or emergency room, you need an experienced suicide attorney. Call  Skip Simpson Attorneys and Counselors at 214-618-8222 or complete our online contact form. We understand what you are going through and can fight hard to pursue the compensation you and your family deserve.  Moreover, sadly it seems the only way clinicians, hospitals and emergency rooms will change their dangerous care is by paying the consequences for their poor care.

A final note.  Mr. Simpson rejects many more cases than he accepts. Not all attempted suicides are the result of incompetent care.  Mr. Simpson and the experts he retains distinguishes the cases where law suits are needed from those where no law suit should be filed.

The Law Offices of Skip Simpson

2591 Dallas Parkway, Suite 300

Frisco, Texas 75034