Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Suicide and Medical Malpractice

The Mississippi Supreme Court dealt with the issue of medical malpractice leading to suicide last week in Truddle v. Baptist Desoto located here.  This was a 5-4 case where the Court affirmed the granting of summary judgment by the trial court which found that the Defendant's suicide was not actionable under the facts presented.  The Court seemed to hang its hat on the fact that the patient had left the Defendant's care and later committed suicide.  The language below is what the Court noted. 

"Nothing in Mississippi caselaw, save the irresistible-impulse doctrine, however, abrogates the general rule that suicide constitutes “an independent, intervening and superseding event that severs the causal nexus between any wrongful action on the part of the defendant.” Shamburger, 84 F. Supp. 2d at 798 (citing Nicholson on Behalf of Gollott v. State, 672 So. 2d 744, 753 (Miss. 1996)). The Edgeworth Court specifically stated that the irresistible-impulse doctrine applied as an exception to the general rule regarding suicide because “[a] higher degree of responsibility is imposed upon a wrongdoer whose conduct was intended to cause harm than upon one whose conduct was negligent.” Edgeworth, 214 So. 2d at 586.  Furthermore, this principle extends to medical-malpractice claims.

To recover under the irresistible impulse doctrine, the plaintiff would have to “plead and prove: (1) the decedent was under an ‘irresistible impulse’ rendering him or her unable to discern the nature or consequences of suicide, and (2) the “irresistible impulse” was proximately caused by the defendant’s intentional conduct.”

Based upon this, the summary judgment was affirmed.  There was a strong dissent in the case which noted that the patient had exhibited strong side effects of the medicine and in fact had returned for care where the doctors did nothing to address the situation.  This case was very fact intensive and I see a lot of wiggle room in the opinion. 

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