Maryland Court Rejects Malpractice Award Based on Patient’s Suicide

If you believe that you have been a victim of a medical professional’s mistake, you need a seasoned Baltimore medical malpractice attorney who will fight to get you the best possible result. Determining whether you have a viable medical malpractice claim is not easy, but having a skilled attorney on your side can make a huge difference in your case.Last month, Maryland’s highest court tossed a $2.3 million jury verdict in a lawsuit accusing a psychiatrist and a hospital of improperly discharging a mental health patient who committed suicide on the following day, reasoning that a doctor who discharges an involuntarily admitted patient in good faith is immune from civil liability.

The Maryland Mental Health Law provides criteria for the involuntary admission of an individual to a mental health facility and a process for evaluating whether the individual meets those criteria. Hospitals, as well as their employees, have civil and criminal immunity when they follow the process in good faith. The process starts with the initiation application for involuntary admission and concludes upon a hearing officer’s decision whether to admit or release that person. If the doctor followed statutory criteria and made the decision to release an individual in good faith, that decision cannot form the basis of a jury verdict for medical malpractice.

In the case at hand, the patient was taken to the hospital pursuant to an application for involuntary admission when he tried to commit suicide. A doctor treated the patient. Two days prior to a planned hearing to decide whether the patient should be admitted involuntarily or released, the doctor permitted the patient’s release. Shortly afterwards, he committed suicide. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit, claiming that both the doctor and the hospital were negligent in allowing the patient’s release. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The Court of Appeals reversed, reasoning that the doctor’s choice to discharge the patient was made in good faith and with reasonable grounds. As a result, the decision was immune from liability.

In Maryland, medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional fails to use the level of care that a reasonably competent medical professional in the same specialty would have used under the same or similar circumstances. Thus, a relevant question in every medical malpractice case is:  did the medical professional’s failure to exercise the appropriate degree of care lead to the patient’s injury? If the answer is yes, the medical professional will likely be liable for malpractice.

If more than one party is liable in a Maryland medical malpractice case, each defendant is responsible for paying the entire judgment if another defendant is unable or unwilling to contribute, under the theory of joint and several liability.

Medical malpractice can lead to devastating, even deadly harm. If you or someone close to you has suffered preventable harm due to a medical professional’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your harm. At Arfaa Law Group, our Baltimore wrongful death attorneys have extensive experience in this area of law and can apply our knowledge to use in your case. We are here to answer your questions and address your concerns. For a free consultation, call 410-889-1850 or contact us online.

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