Failure to Prevent Suicide or Self Harming
Suicide or attempted suicide while a patient is being detained in a mental health facility is a known risk which must be protected against by the institution that has undertaken to counsel patients with mental health issues. So too, prison suicide is a regular occurrence, as people with untreated illnesses often find themselves in trouble with the law. Properly identifying against jail related suicide risk and protecting against that risk is essential every time a person is arrested and detained. Someone arrested for driving under the influence, may in fact be someone who has long fought addiction and may become distraught (while still under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances) and think that the arrest will lead to loss of employment, family shame, and these thoughts may push a person to take his or her own life.
Jails are not the only settings where residents are at risk of suicide. Mental health facilities too can be liable for failing to properly screen people seeking in-patient treatment for mental health issues, or addiction. Screening and identifying a suicide risk, but then failing to protect and prevent the patient at risk from harming themselves, opens a facility to legal liability and subject the institution to damages.
Part of the responsibility of the institutions who care for people with mental health issues is to ensure the safety of those in their charge. When suicide in jail occurs, questions must be asked of the institution’s protocols, training and staff competence. For example, a suicide watch program may not protect individuals or institutions from liability. Such programs are not always effective. Some may involve only television monitoring. Further, there is a need in nearly every case to eliminate access to objects and instruments that can be used to inflict self-harm, such as shoe strings, belts, sheets, and blankets.
Inadequate medical care in mental health facilities may mean that no person is assigned the task to watch and intervene so as to stop a potential suicide. Incredibly, suicide and self-harming have occurred even after a patient has demonstrated alarming signs, such as fantasizing about ending their life, that should have made clear that intervention was necessary. Authorities must meet a set standard of quality of care to prevent suicide when they undertake to protect patients or detainees in their care.
A lawsuit, which a personal injury lawyer can help prepare, can result in monetary damages against the institutions responsible for suicides and attempted suicides and bring the failures of those institutions to light in order to help stop future tragedies.
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