Every patient who enters an Ontario hospital is owed a certain standard of care. In other words, hospital staff – including physicians, nurses, administrators and others – must avoid errors and omissions that similarly trained professionals would not make under the same circumstances. As any medical malpractice lawyer can tell you, the duty to provide adequate care is owed to all patients, including those grappling with mental health issues.
In June 2014, 20-year-old Prashant Tiwari was found dead in Brampton, Ontario’s Civic Hospital. He had been voluntarily admitted to the hospital’s secure psychiatric unit 10 days earlier, where he was placed on suicide watch. He was to be checked every 15 minutes.
In a 2016 Statement of Claim, the Tiwari family alleged that on the day of his death, Prashant was left alone in the unit’s shower area for more than two hours and 40 minutes while staff members joined a potluck luncheon.
Patient deaths while under suicide watch are surprisingly and unfortunately common in Canadian hospitals. A 2014 report from CTV News states that “there have been approximately 300 deaths over ten years involving suicidal patients who were supposed to be on strict watch,” nearly a third of which occurred in Ontario.
Not long after the release of CTV’s report, the Government of Ontario announced the formation of a Suicide Prevention Standards Task Force under the Ontario Hospital Association. The force has a mandate to establish “consistent standards that can be applied across the province to reduce the number of persons who have died by suicide while receiving care.” No findings or recommendations have yet been released.
“The tip I would like to give to family members who have loved ones in hospital with suicidal ideation is to ask the staff to sit down with them and develop a safety plan that consists of reasons for living, ways to cope with their suicidal thought without self-harm, and five people to call when they feel hopeless,” former British Columbia Coroner Kathleen Stephany told CTV. “A family member can be involved in the process.”
One in five Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. The remaining four will have a friend, family member, or colleague who will. When a person suffering from mental illness checks into a hospital in Ontario, they are entitled to the same quality of care as any other patient. When this standard is not met, they should contact a medical malpractice lawyer.
If you or someone you love has suffered an injury while in hospital, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers to learn how a medical malpractice lawyer can help you access compensation for your injuries.