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Health Care Providers Should Always Take Suicide Threats Seriously

Suicide is a nationwide epidemic and in Michigan the number of people who have died by suicide has risen 33 percent since 1999, more than the nations' average of 25 percent.  Unfortunately, many of our health systems are not practicing best standards when it comes to helping those at risk.

Recently I deposed the defense expert in a medical expert in a case involving a hospital releasing a young man who was threatening suicide, and had attempted suicide just a week before. The hospital's psychiatrist recommended he be admitted, but when Community Mental Health wouldn't pay for his admission, he was released. That young man then tried again to take his own life and now is suffering disabling injuries as a result of the failed attempt.

The defense expert admitted that it's the sole responsibility of the psychiatrist to decide to admit a patient. In this case, it looks like insurance issues and ignorance overrode the doctor's recommendation.

This was an avoidable tragedy if the hospital had put the patient's safety first as they should. In Michigan, one person dies by suicide every seven hours. Those who reach out for help should be cared for and mental health professionals should be the decision-makers on who needs care, not hospital administrations.  

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