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One of the more worrying aspects of suicide in hospitals and outpatient care is the fact that there is not much information regarding this issue. For example, facts and statistics regarding which demography has a higher number of suicides as well as how prevalent it is throughout the country have simply not been researched. Overall, suicide is the eleventh highest cause of death in the U.S. and the Surgeon General has stated that it is a serious threat to the safety of the public. In one year, over 36,000 thousand people in the U.S. took their own life, that’s one person every 14.2 minutes. The number of attempted suicides that were not successful was over 1,000,000. By race, the highest number of suicide was among white and the second highest was among Native Americans.
It has been shown that physical illness does reduce the chances for a suicide attempt. Patients in hospitals can be battling life-threatening illnesses and debilitating injuries. Cancer patients may feel as though the prospect of painful treatment is not worth living through, especially when there is no guarantee of success. It is important to note that the studies that have taken place regarding suicide in medical settings show that most suicides take place in psychiatric hospitals and not standard hospitals. However, many inpatient and outpatient facilities also have psychiatric units and so need to be prepared for the possible risk of suicide.
Psychiatric Inpatient Suicide
One study suggests that there are over 1,800 inpatient suicides every year and that an average psychiatric nurse will witness a patient suicide every 2.5 years. It is also thought that 60% of these suicides could have been prevented had they not been assessed inaccurately. In these cases, the risk for suicide was not properly determined and so action was not taken to prevent the suicide from taking place. When the method of suicide was examined in outpatient and inpatient psychiatric facilities, it was found that the overwhelming method used was death by hanging. Seventy-five percent of patients hung themselves in their own room, bathroom, or closet. All that was needed was something to fashion a noose out of as well as a few minutes of privacy. Even though suicide watch may require that a patient is checked on every 15 minutes, it only takes 4 or 5 minutes of oxygen deprivation to kill the victim, leaving them sufficient time to kill themselves.
Preventing Self-Harm in Hospitals
In order to prevent these tragedies from occurring, sufficient effort must be put forth on the part of the staff. Anything which could potentially allow a patient to hang themselves, such as bars in the shower, piping, and bed frames, should be removed or modified. The staff should also remove the patient’s shoes, belt, or anything else on their person which could result in harm. For the families left behind following the suicide of a loved one who was in medical care, it can be difficult to deal with the emotional distress that results. They often want to make every effort to discover if negligence or malpractice played a role in the death.
Hospital negligence could be to blame in more of these cases than we would like to think. In one recent case, a patient was admitted to a psychiatric hospital after showing signs of suffering from paranoia. However, after only one day in care, he had hung himself in his room by creating a noose from his bed sheet. He was supposed to be checked every fifteen minutes, but records show that he was left alone for two hours. This gave him an abundant amount of time to pull his bed to the side and hang himself. If your family suspects that negligence was a factor in the untimely death of your loved one, please contact the Law Offices of Joseph M. Lichtenstein, PC. We can help stand up for your rights during this difficult time. Please call a New York medical malpractice attorney from our office for a free case evaluation!