Florida Supreme Court Says Doctor May be Sued for Medical Malpractice in Patient Suicide

Law Firm Newswire



Southfield, MI (Law Firm Newswire) October 11, 2016 – In August 2016, Florida’s Supreme Court ruled a doctor could be sued for medical malpractice for a patient’s suicide.

After a Florida woman hanged herself at the age of 55, her husband filed a lawsuit against the family doctor treating her for depression. According to documents submitted with the statement of claim, the woman had been taking Effexor from 2005 to 2008, but stopped in 2008 due to side effects, such as mental strain, gastric issues, emotional upset and the inability to get a good night’s sleep.

The day before she took her own life, the woman called her doctor and spoke to a medical assistant. She shared that she had not felt right for a long period of time and had ceased taking the drug. Allegedly when the doctor read the assistant’s note, he changed her medication to Lexapro, without talking to or examining her. Instead, she was told she could get a drug sample and her prescription from his office.

The lawsuit states the medical group and the individual physician breached their duty of care by:

* Not recognizing her change in symptoms
* Acknowledging her depression
* Realizing she needed immediate medical assistance
* Not properly evaluating the new medication, whose known side effect was suicidal ideation
* Not referring her to a clinically trained practitioner with experience in treating depression

It was further argued that the physician knew that stopping one medication and immediately switching to another increased the risk of suicide.
The Florida Supreme Court stated, “Although the inpatient duty to prevent suicide does not apply here, there still existed a statutory duty . . . to treat the decedent in accordance with the standard of care.”

The years of treatment for depression and medications took a toll on the family’s finances. The woman’s sudden death was shocking and financially difficult. “One of the solutions to handling funeral and burial expenses would be to apply for a lawsuit loan. Litigation funding is designed to help cash strapped plaintiffs handle their medical and other expenses while they are waiting for their case to be resolved,” stated Daren Monroe, Litigation Funding Corporation representative.

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