Physician’s Assessment of Patient Questioned in Malpractice Case

    The treatment of a woman with a history of suicide, borderline personality disorder, and PTSD from childhood sexual abuse was the subject of a malpractice trial after it was alleged that her doctor did not provide a high enough standard of care. She had undergone electroconvulsive therapy while staying a nursing rehab home, and had begun to express an active interest in committing suicide. She attempted suicide numerous times, and threatened to continue doing so when she was stopped by nurses. THe nursing home called her general physician, who told them to administer Ativan and did not write a note for it. The patient went to sleep without any observation, and attempted to light herself on fire with her cigarette lighter when she woke up in the morning. She survived and needed multiple skin grafts, and a psychiatrist was required to comment if the patient’s general practitioner had conducted a proper assessment during the phone call.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • 1. Do you routinely treat patients with borderline personality disorder, PTSD, or suicidal ideations?
    • 2. Have you ever lectured or published on patients with coexisting borderline personality disorder and suicidal ideations?

    Expert Witness Response E-051776

    I have researched, published and lectured on borderline personality disorder. The basic case summary certainly sounds like there was negligence in assessing the patient’s suicide risk, but only a full review would confirm or refute that.

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