Most Illinois residents associate medical malpractice claims with errors that occur while doctors are tending to a patient's physical well-being. However, a patient's mental health can also give rise to a wrongful death claim if a doctor fails to make the proper diagnosis or prescribe a course of treatment that will not only help the patient recover but also keep him or her safe. This form of medical malpractice prompted an out-of-state senator to file a wrongful death claim in the aftermath of his son's death.
In 2013, the state senator's 24-year-old son exhibited behaviors that his father believed should have required him to be put into a facility. The young man's mother also expressed her concern that her son needed help. A mental health care worker employed by the state's community services board evaluated him. After the evaluation, the employee claimed that he contacted 10 facilities, but no beds were available, so he released the patient into his father's care.
The next day, the son stabbed the senator 13 times. The senator was taken to a hospital in critical condition, and he eventually recovered. His son, however, shot himself sometime after his father was taken to the hospital. It was later discovered through a review of phone records that the worker who claimed to have contacted 10 facilities actually only called seven. Of the three other facilities that he should have contacted, two had beds available.
This is part of what prompted this grieving father to file a wrongful death claim in the wake of his son's death. He alleges that if his son had been put into a facility the day before, he might be alive today. As would be the case here in Illinois, the state senator will first need to establish negligence before the court will consider an award of damages. The senator has publicly said that one of the goals of his lawsuit is to help ensure that no other family has to endure what his did.
Source: kentucky.com, "Senator sues state, mental health officials over son's death", Larry O'Dell, Jan. 5, 2016