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New York Court Discusses Whether a Doctor’s Failure to Communicate With Other Providers Constitutes Malpractice

Mental healthcare professionals that treat patients for depression and suicidal ideation will often correspond with other healthcare providers that treat their patients. The failure to engage in such communications does not necessarily constitute malpractice if a patient subsequently dies by suicide, however. This was demonstrated in a recent New York case in which the court ruled that the plaintiff failed to show that a lack of communication proximately caused a patient’s death. If you lost a loved one due to inadequate medical care, it is in your best interest to talk to a Rochester medical malpractice lawyer about your potential claims as soon as possible.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the decedent treated with a psychiatrist for several years. In 2016, he began treating with the defendant, who administered the decedent Ketamine treatments in an attempt to cure his depression. During the first session, the decedent expressly forbid the defendant from contacting his psychiatrist. In January 2017, the decedent requested an emergency appointment with the defendant; during the session, he reported suicidal ideation.

Allegedly, by the end of the appointment, the defendant did not believe the decedent was at imminent risk of self-harm. The decedent died by suicide two days later. His husband subsequently brought medical malpractice claims against the defendant, arguing that his failure to communicate with the decedent’s psychiatrist proximately caused the decedent’s death. The defendant moved for summary judgment, and the court granted his motion. The plaintiff appealed.

Communication in the Context of Medical Care

The trial court ruling was affirmed on appeal. The court explained that the plaintiff failed to offer expert testimony or any other evidence that would allow a rational jury to find that the defendant’s conduct caused the decedent’s suicide.

Specifically, the plaintiff was required to refute the defendant’s assertions that he did not depart from the acceptable standards of care and that any alleged departure did not cause the plaintiff’s harm. Further, the plaintiff’s expert opinions must address the specific arguments set forth by the defendant’s experts and explain the reasoning and evidence of record used to support the opinion in order not to be considered conclusory or speculative.

In the subject case, the court noted that the plaintiff’s expert’s testimony was undoubtedly speculative, as it merely asserted that it was unknown whether communications between the two doctors would have changed the outcome. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with an Experienced Rochester Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Doctors have an obligation to protect their patient’s health, which in many instances, means they must connect with other providers involved in their care, and if they fail to do so, it may cause their patients to suffer harm. If you or a loved one sustained injuries due to a doctor’s neglect, you should meet with an attorney to determine whether you may be able to pursue medical malpractice claims. The experienced Rochester medical malpractice lawyers of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers can inform you of your rights and help you to seek the best outcome available under the facts of your case. You can reach us through our online form or by calling us at 833-200-2000 to set up a conference.

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