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Maryland Court Discusses Immunity For Hospitals Following Emergency Mental Health Evaluations

Physicians take an oath affirming that they will not harm the people they treat. Thus, a physician can be held liable for engaging in behavior that is harmful to their patients. Additionally, Maryland law allows physicians to be held accountable for failing to involuntarily admit a patient to prevent the patient from harming others or engaging in self-harm, but only under limited circumstances. The criteria for imposing liability on an emergency facility or healthcare provider for failing to admit a person involuntarily were recently discussed in a case in which a mother alleged a hospital breached the standard care after her son died following his release from the hospital. If you were harmed or lost a loved one due to negligent medical care, it is prudent to speak to a dedicated Maryland medical malpractice attorney regarding what claims you might be able to pursue.

The Patient’s Treatment

It is alleged that the decedent, who was the plaintiff’s son, was arrested for stealing nasal spray, after which he became erratic and threatened to commit suicide. Due to his behavior, the police transported the decedent to the defendant hospital for evaluation. During the evaluation, the decedent advised he had previously been prescribed anti-psychotic medications, and that he had a history of attempting suicide. Ultimately, the defendant physician that evaluated the decedent determined that the decedent was depressed, but was not an acute suicide risk. As such, he was released into police custody. Approximately one week later, while still in police custody, the decedent died by suicide.

Reportedly, the plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant hospital and the defendant physician, alleging they negligently breached the standard of care in multiple ways in the treatment of the decedent. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that they were immune from liability under Maryland law.

Liability for Failing to Involuntarily Admit a Person

In Maryland, statutory law provides that if a police officer petitions a hospital for an emergency evaluation of a person, a physician at the hospital must assess the person within six hours to determine whether the person meets the requirements for involuntary admission. The law further provides that, after the examination, the person must be released unless the person asks to be admitted, or the physician finds that the person is suffering from a mental disorder and requires inpatient treatment. The physician must also find that the person presents a danger to others or himself or herself, but is unwilling to be admitted voluntarily, and no less restrictive intervention is available. If a physician acting in good faith complies with the law, the physician will be immune from civil liability.

In the subject case, the court found that to determine whether the plaintiff’s complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim, it must assess whether the plaintiff alleged that the defendants failed to engage in the statutory evaluation process. Upon review, the court noted that the plaintiff did not allege any violations of the process. As such, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint.

Speak to a Trusted Maryland Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one because of inadequate treatment by a healthcare provider, you should speak to an attorney to assess your rights. The trusted Maryland medical malpractice attorneys of Arfaa Law Group will work tirelessly to help you. You can contact us via our online form or at (410) 889-1850 to set up a conference.

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