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Court rejects malpractice claim arising from suicide

Carol Teal sued three doctors and a hospital, claiming that their premature dismissal of her husband led to his suicide.  Teal's husband was admitted to Herrick Memorial Hospital after a suicide attempt, and discharged 3 days later, after being placed back on anti-depressants and denying suicidal ideation.  He killed himself 8 days after being discharged.  The Court dismissed Teal's claim summarily, even though she presented the testimony of an expert psychiatrist who offered the opinion that Teal's treatment after the first attempt fell below the standard of care. 

The trial court and Court of Appeals essentially concluded that the critical doctor could only speculate about whether poor care contributed to Teal's suicide.  This case starkly demonstrates the difficulty of prevailing on a suicide-negligence claim:  in many cases, it may be virtually impossible to convince judges and jurors that someone other than the decedent is truly responsible for the death--even if there is poor care.  In this case, the judges concluded that even expert testimony of poor care did not create a question of fact to be decided by the jury.  The case is Estate of Teal v. Prassad, et al.  It certainly didn't help the widow's claim that she had filed for divorce in the weeks leading up to the suicide attempts.

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