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Shapiro & Appleton

Psychiatric Hospitals Must Protect Patients

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After a fight broke out in a ward at Holly Hill Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina (NC), in mid-April, federal investigators cited the psychiatric hospital for maintaining "conditions ... so deficient that the safety of patients is considered to be under ongoing threat." Staff responding to the melee, which lasted nearly an hour and took eight police officers to break up, also faced serious risks of injury and even death.

Reports of patient abuse at psychiatric hospitals make headlines regularly. And, certainly, people with mental illness require every protection. A little less than a year ago from when I'm writing this post, a patient with psychiatric disease was found dead of a suspected medication error in the Coastal Plain mental facility in Rocky Mount, NC.

The doctors, nurses, pharmacist and everyone else who takes responsibility for providing the care and services psychiatric patients must also be kept from harm, however. Unsafe conditions in a hospital are unsafe for everyone in the hospital. Security is a particular concern. A failure to provide security in the face of known prior incidents can be a basis of legal liability for a nursing home or clinic.

Patients who suffer mental illness are particularly vulnerable to risks when a nurse "goes rogue" and fails to provide the medication prescribed due to their own drug abuse, or when an incompetent nurse fails to provide basic, mandated care. Also, such cases are hard to catch and prove, as the incompetent nurse may hide behind the lack of mental competence of the patient. These cases are very challenging, but in the right factual circumstances, an experienced injury attorney can gather the proof needed to prevail on a neglect claim.

Richard N. Shapiro
Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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