Twenty-five years ago where I currently reside, an incident similar to this scenario took place. The case was West Oaks Hosp. v. Jones, 2001 Tex. App. LEXIS 718. In a brief summary, in 1993 a mental health patient suffering from bipolar disorder left the hospital against medical orders and ultimately committed suicide. In reviewing the case, I think there were some very vital mistakes made by the hospital staff and had those missteps not been made, then there might have been a different outcome for the patient and their family.
In the scenario for this discussion, the circumstances are very similar. The first question to address is whether the hospital, Dr. Simon, or any other healthcare professionals have any liability for Mr. Jones’s departure and his demise. From what I’ve found and read, the answer is yes. And because Dr. Simon and the other medical staff are employees of the hospital, the hospital can be found liable of negligence regardless of who was involved directly with the care and monitoring of Mr. Jones.
To ensure that Mr. Jones could not leave the facility they could have put together a small nursing team to place on watch duty. The staff could have worked in small shifts to monitor Mr. Jones, as well as render medical help if needed. Also, considering Mr. Jones’s history of mental illness and lack of local family to take care of him, the hospital could have taken the appropriate legal steps to opt for restraining Mr. Jones. “Some psychiatric disorders result in severe behavioral changes that necessitate rapid and dramatic action, including restricting a person’s freedom. Such action may be necessary in order to protect the person either from self harm or from harming others.” (Rubin, 2010). It is a process, and takes about 4 days for the legal process to hold a patient under involuntary psychiatric hospitalization. However, it was an option that could have been exhausted.
When it comes to detaining a patient, I think that if a patient poses a threat to themselves or others, then a hospital should be able to hold them at the hospital until the patient is deemed mentally fit, aware, capable, and stable to be released. Even then, I would think that they should be released to a designated family member or care provider.
In regards to the discovery of Mr. Jones’s and his condition upon discover, I would hate to be an administrator handling this situation. The facility as a whole definitely dropped the ball, and responsibility has to be taken at some level. The only thing I could do at this point is to set up the proper measures to take so that this type of incident doesn’t happen again. There will be some disciplinary actions taken, in-service re-training, and a plan of action set in place to deter any future occurrences.
Rubin, E. (2010, October 28). Can the Mentally Ill Be Hospitalized Against Their Will? Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/demystifying-psychiatry/201010/can-the-mentally-ill-be-hospitalized-against-their-will
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