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New York Court Examines a Doctor’s Duty to Prevent a Patient’s Self-Harm

Doctors have a duty to provide their patients with thorough and adequate care. This means that they must not only avoid causing their patients physical harm but also that, in some instances, they must prevent patients from harming themselves. The duty a doctor owes to a patient with ideation of self-harm was the topic of a recent New York opinion delivered in a medical malpractice case in which the court denied the defendant’s request for dismissal. If your loved one died due to the negligence of a doctor, it is in your best interest to confer with a Rochester medical malpractice lawyer to discuss what compensation you may be owed.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant treated the decedent for chronic pain. Throughout the course of his care, the defendant prescribed the decedent opioids. Two years after the defendant began treating the decedent, the decedent saw a neurologist, who described the decedent as being depressed and having suicidal ideation. Shortly after that, the decedent died in his home. The medical examiner assessed his death as accidental and caused by acute combined intoxication with gabapentin and hydromorphone.

It is reported that the plaintiff subsequently commenced a lawsuit against the defendant asserting medical malpractice and wrongful death claims. The defendant moved for summary judgment, but the court denied the motion. The defendant then appealed.

A Doctor’s Duty to a Suicidal Patient

On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court ruling. The court explained that on a motion for summary judgment dismissal of a medical malpractice claim, the defendant carries the initial burden of demonstrating that they did not deviate from the good and accepted practice of medicine or that any such departure did not proximately cause the plaintiff’s harm.

If the defendant meets this burden, the plaintiff must then show that a triable issue of fact exists as to those elements for which the defendant met its burden of proof. In the subject case, in opposition to the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff offered, among other things, the affidavit of his medical expert, in which he offered triable issues of fact as to whether the decedent died by suicide or an accidental overdose, whether the defendant departed from the applicable standard of care, and whether the departure proximately caused the decedent’s death.

The court explained that, contrary to the defendant’s assertion, the plaintiff’s expert affidavit was not speculative or unsupported by the evidence. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet With an Assertive Rochester Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Medical malpractice can not only cause bodily injuries, but it can also cause psychological trauma. If you were hurt by a doctor’s failure to provide adequate care, you should meet with an attorney to discuss your options for seeking justice. The assertive Rochester medical malpractice lawyers of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers possess the skills and knowledge needed to achieve favorable outcomes, and if we represent you, we will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach us via our form online or by calling us at 833-200-2000 to set up a conference.

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