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Med mal case filed for failure to refer to psychologist settles

When some people think about medical malpractice lawsuits they likely think about ways in which physical illnesses or injuries are misdiagnosed or not treated properly. There are situations however where patients might file a claim for issues related to the way in which a psychological condition is addressed. A settlement recently reached, in a case filed by a Canadian woman, illustrates this.

The woman had a history of psychological issues including anxiety and depression. In addition to threatening suicide, she allegedly attempted it multiple times. To address the underlying issue, the woman sought help from her family doctor. On one occasion she also visited a hospital emergency room after taking pills. At that visit, despite being told she would meet with a psychiatrist, she was sent home. When she saw her primary doctor several days later, she was also not referred to a psychiatrist. Shortly thereafter, she again attempted suicide.

The attempt was unsuccessful when a rescue dog found the woman who was outside, buried in snow. As a result of the frostbite she suffered, she lost her feet and hands. In addition, following the rescue she was in a coma for a week due to a stroke she suffered. Since then, her husband has served as her primary caregiver, assisting not only with physical, but cognitive issues as well.

A lawsuit was filed against her family doctor and two doctors who worked for the hospital she visited. In her claim, she alleged the mental health care she received was negligent. Specifically, the doctors were accused of negligence because they failed to recognize how serious her mental condition was and provide a referral to a psychiatrist. She sought $12.5-million in damages.

Following five weeks of trial, the case settled. Though the amount agreed upon was not disclosed, her lawyer indicated it is “significant” and will make it possible for her husband to hire someone to care for her.

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