Suicide is among the leading causes of death for Americans under the age of 35. What many do not realize is that the vast majority of suicides can be prevented by physicians and nurses through proper evaluation and timely interventions for high-risk patients.

Unfortunately, many nurses and physicians fail to perform the suicide risk assessment properly, which may expose hospitals to liability in medical malpractice cases when a patient takes his or her own life. “Yes, family members of a person who committed suicide may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital or individual medical professional who had treated the deceased prior to the suicide,” says a Philadelphia failure to prevent suicide attorney from The Weitz Firm, LLC.

Recognizing symptoms of suicidal behavior

Fact: The vast majority of suicides in Pennsylvania and all across the U.S. involve persons who had previously suffered from a psychiatric illness such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, had previously attempted to commit suicide, had a problem with substance abuse, or were coping with difficulties in life (for example, divorce, death of a loved one, etc.).

Survivors of a person who committed suicide may be able to sue the physician or nurse who (1) failed to recognize signs that a person had imminent risk of suicide, and (2) failed to provide necessary treatment or take preventative measures to prevent the person from taking his or her own life. More often than not, the most efficient preventative measure is an involuntary admission to the psychiatric ward of a hospital.

“Physicians, nurses, and other members of hospital staff should be able to recognize symptoms of suicidal behavior in the course of the suicide risk assessment,” explains our experienced failure to prevent suicide attorney in Philadelphia.

Suicide risk assessment: How should it be performed by hospitals?

In order to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against a healthcare provider who failed to prevent your loved one’s suicide, you need to determine whether or not an adequate suicide risk assessment was performed. Typically, when performing a suicide risk assessment, a medical professional (usually, a nurse or psychiatrist) will ask questions about the patient’s marital life, custody, divorce, chronic health issues, substance abuse, complaints about psychiatric illnesses or emotional suffering, if any, and whether or not that person has previously attempted to commit suicide or had a psychiatric illness.

Fact: Men commit suicide nearly 4 times more often than women. Interestingly, women usually choose less lethal means to commit suicide such as overdosing on pills.

As you can imagine, the person who is being evaluated as part of the suicide risk assessment is not the most reliable source of information, which is why the healthcare provider must gather information by speaking to the person’s family members, medical professionals who currently treat or previously treated the person, and the police.

Failure to get collateral information from the patient’s family members and other sources to determine the risk for suicide may constitute medical malpractice.

Is failure to prevent suicide medical malpractice?

However, the suicide risk assessment is not the only thing a medical professional can do to prevent suicide. Our Philadelphia suicide malpractice lawyer from The Weitz Firm, LLC, explains that after the assessment has been completed, the psychiatrist or nurse has a duty to write procedures outlining the choice of medical treatment and other preventatives measures if the patient is at moderate to high risk of suicide.

In some cases, sending a high-risk patient to the psychiatric ward of a hospital is the only viable option to prevent suicide. In other cases, medical management and counseling may be enough to prevent a suicide. Let our lawyers from The Weitz Firm, LLC, evaluate your case and determine whether or not a healthcare provider failed to prevent your family member’s suicide as well as help you calculate recoverable damages in a suicide malpractice lawsuit. Schedule a free consultation by calling at 267-587-6240.

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