The jury in the Superior Court, Sacramento County, California heard testimony outlining the full sequence of events leading up to a psychiatric patient's tragic suicide and concluded that the patient's caregivers were not at fault.
The fifty-seven year-old female patient had a history of alcohol abuse, depression and a previous suicide attempt.
She began drinking heavily and while intoxicated attempted to commit suicide by taking an overdose of Antabuse.
When that did not work, according to the history she gave her caregivers, she thought about hanging herself but instead called 911. Paramedics came to her home and took her to the emergency room where a seventy-two hour involuntary psychiatric hold was initiated.
The hospital transferred her to a psychiatric facility with a locked unit. She was kept on fifteen-minute suicide watch until she told her nurse she was no longer suicidal. The nurse phoned the psychiatrist for orders to transfer her to the adult treatment program, believing a less restrictive environment would be more beneficial for the patient than the locked ward.
While in the adult treatment program the nursing staff continued to monitor her status every thirty minutes. She went to group, signed a safety contract and agreed she would cooperate in her own treatment.
The same day she arrived the psychiatrist came in and saw her. She denied current suicidal intent and talked about recent family stressors in her life. The doctor...