Is it malpractice if a hospital staff twice allows a patient access to the same drugs that they tried to commit suicide with, all while being on a 24-hour suicide watch?

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Is it malpractice if a hospital staff twice allows a patient access to the same drugs that they tried to commit suicide with, all while being on a 24-hour suicide watch?

Upon being discharged from the hospital post suicide attempt, a nurse handed my belongings to me, which contained a bottle of pills. The staff profusely apologized, blaming others. I gave them the pills. I was instructed to continue to get dressed as my brother would be picking me up. Then I found another bottle of pills. The staff seemed panicked and again apologized. The next thing I know, I’m was being transported to an awful prison-like drug rehab in another state and held there for over a week. My brother literally had to threaten to contact police if I wasn’t released. When I was finally dischaged, I was again given the 2 bottles of pills and told I could be arrested should I have those medications in my possession.

Asked on July 22, 2017 under Malpractice Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

There are actually two components to a medical malpractice case.
The first is liability, or did the hospital do something careless or negligent--e.g. provided medical care that does not meet accepted standards for such care. If they did, they could be liable, which means that they could be financially resonsible for any harm you suffered due to their negligent or careless acts.
The second is "damages," or the costs and injuries you suffered and compensation to which you are entitled. The civil law (e.g. malpractice lawsuits) does not punish people for wrongdoing primarily; rather, the primary function is to provide compensation for your costs, injuries, losses, etc. (any punishment the wrongdoer experiences is generally a side effect of providing compensation to the injured person--i.e. making them pay). If a wrongful or careless act does not actually harm you in a provable way, you are not entitled to any compensation: if you sued, even if you proved wrongdoing, you would not receive any money. (It's similar to how if I try to punch you and hit you, breaking your nose, you can sue me for the medical costs and injuries; but if I punch at you and miss, you can't sue because you suffered no harm.)
You do not describe suffering any injuries or incurring medical costs due to this; therefore, a civil lawsuit (malpractice lawsuit) is not the way to vindicate your rights, since you could spend a lot of money on the case (civil suits are expensive) without receiving any compensation for it. If you feel, as you do, that they treated you wrongfly and were careless, you can file a complaint with the state medical licensing board; there may be an investigation and discipline.


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