Suicide Malpractice Attorney Skip Simpson Featured in ‘Atlantic’ Article about Impact of Loss on Mental Health Practitioners

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The attorney at The Law Offices of Skip Simpson was asked to provide a lawyer’s point of view on suicide prevention and mental health professionals.

I don’t think the public is generally aware of the severe lack of training for mental health professionals when it comes to treating patients who are at risk of dying from suicide. I hope The Atlantic article sheds some light on this crisis.

Suicide malpractice attorney Skip Simpson offered his perspective in an article in The Atlantic about the impact of patient suicides on mental health professionals.

Commenting on the Jan. 20 article in The Atlantic titled “How Patient Suicide Affects Psychiatrists,” Simpson today said he hopes the story raises awareness about the problems with the mental health system.

“Unfortunately, the system is broken, and ‘broken’ seems to be OK with graduate schools, medical schools and licensing boards. The schools and boards are required to make sure patient care is safe,” said Simpson, of The Law Offices of Skip Simpson. “Most mental health providers lack the skills to detect, assess and protect their patients who are at risk of dying by suicide. They’re either poorly trained or not trained at all, and recommendations to prevent suicide have largely fallen on deaf ears at the professional schools. I don’t think the public is generally aware of the severe lack of training for mental health professionals when it comes to treating patients who are at risk of dying from suicide. I hope The Atlantic article sheds some light on this crisis.”

According to The Atlantic article, the percentage of psychiatrists and others who work in the health field whose patients die by suicide may be as high as 80 percent. The mental health professionals who lose their patients generally are devastated and say they fear they did not do enough to prevent the loss, according to The Atlantic.

Simpson said he has heard that clinicians state they believe families file suicide malpractice lawsuits because they believe they need to blame someone.

“I have never come across this attitude in the 30 years I have represented families,” Simpson explained. “I do not believe this allegation; there is no science or other evidence to support the pejorative comment. The families do want answers. Physician ethics require physicians to explain to patients and loved ones what happened when a death occurs. If something went wrong the physician is required to explain what went wrong. An explanation and apology would stop most lawsuits.”

In The Atlantic article, Simpson noted that two people die from suicide every 30 minutes in the United States. “The latest 2013 data shows an average of 1 person every 12.8 minutes killed themselves in the United States” Simpson added.

Simpson told The Atlantic: “There is a basic duty to prevent harm, for example, at a hospital. If those charged with treatment of mentally disturbed patients know the facts from which they could reasonably conclude that a patient would be likely to harm herself in the absence of reclusive measures or interventions to protect them, then they must use reasonable care under the circumstances to prevent that harm. That’s not just in hospitals, but also in outpatient care too.”

An attorney with 30 years’ experience representing families, Simpson said his goal is not to file lawsuits against mental health providers. Rather, he said hopes to do his part to improve the mental health care system in the United States.

“The Atlantic article describes one man who died from suicide at an inpatient treatment facility where he was taken off a heavy dose of an antidepressant drug,” Simpson said. “He repeatedly let the providers know he had suicidal thoughts and reached out for help, but they never locked him down or took his belt away from him, according to the article. The staff apparently ignored other signs that he was severely at risk. He died from hanging on the grounds of the institution.”

Paul Quinett, a professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral science at the University of Washington School of Medicine, told The Atlantic that the majority of mental health professionals lack the training needed to deal with patients at risk of dying from suicide.

Simpson said by providing proper training and education for mental health providers, these types of tragedies can be prevented.

About The Law Offices of Skip Simpson
For over 30 years, Skip Simpson has been practicing law, focusing on psychiatric and psychological malpractice, suicide lawsuits, as well as personal injury civil, commercial and criminal litigation. Nationally recognized for his expertise in suicide law, he is considered a pioneer in the field of suicide litigation and has represented families who have lost loved ones to suicide around the country.

Family members whose loved one died by suicide and want to know more about their legal rights should seek the help of an experienced suicide attorney by calling (214) 618-8222 or completing the online contact form.

The Law Offices of Skip Simpson
2591 Dallas Parkway #300
Frisco, TX 75034
(214) 618-8222

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