Magazine article Developments in Mental Health Law
Man Who Attempted to Commit Suicide after Discharge from Emergency Room Can Pursue EMTALA and Medical Malpractice Claim against Hospital
A federal judge in Tennessee allowed a case to continue that addresses a scenario that may be played out when respite services are not available to individuals with a mental illness. The man who brought the lawsuit alleged that he arrived at the emergency room of a local private hospital suffering from "emergency medical conditions" and requesting "medical care to avert danger of harm to himself due to depression, suicidal tendencies, and substance and alcohol abuse." He claimed that a hospital employee performed a cursory medical examination and clinical evaluation of him that was less comprehensive and thorough than the screening normally provided by the hospital for other patients in similar circumstances. The employee subsequently recommended that the man call an outpatient treatment center and gave him a list of such centers.
The man asserted that he called each center on the list but was refused treatment by each because of his health insurance status. When he told the hospital employee that none of the recommended centers would accept him for treatment, the hospital employee was reported to have replied "they had done all they could possibly do," and the man was subsequently discharged from the hospital. Upon discharge, the man stated he "consumed a quantity of alcohol and intentionally cut his wrist with the intent of killing himself," resulting in his being transported to another emergency medical care facility where he received stitches for his wound and was involuntarily committed for treatment.
The man filed a lawsuit against the hospital and the hospital employee, arguing that they had violated the Federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) and engaged in medical malpractice. …