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Preventable suicide case highlights medical negligence

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Pearson Medical Negligence department acted for the father of a woman who sadly committed suicide after a series of medical failings and breaches of duty of care.

Whilst any suicide is a tragedy, when it could have been prevented and medical negligence was an issue it is even harder for family and friends to deal with.

Breach of duty of care

In this case against the Northern Care Alliance, a settlement of £20,000 was made and the Alliance admitted a breach of duty of care.

Solicitor and Head of Medical Negligence, Jacqueline White, said:

“Preventable suicides are sad cases and the tragedy is compounded by the actual fact that they are just that - often preventable had proper care been given. In cases such as this we work closely with the family at what is undoubtedly a difficult time for them and aim to make it as painless and stress free as possible.

“Here medication levels were not monitored and our client’s daughter, who had a history of not taking medication correctly, was often left to her own devises.”

In this case, the community mental health team, home treatment team and her local hospital were all found to be negligent.

Our client’s daughter was a friendly outgoing university student with a good job and only developed ongoing psychiatric ill health in her 20s.  The breakdown of a marriage and issues at work exacerbated her symptoms of dissociative amnesia,

Over three years, our client's daughter developed more serious psychiatric illnesses including;

  • delusion
  • paranoia
  • psychosis

She began to self-harm, had recurrent depression, made suicide attempts and at times was sectioned under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act.

From 2015 until her death in 2019 she developed a pattern of non-compliance with medications, which health professionals were aware of and should have been dealt with.  The Claimant, the woman’s father, said he felt unsupported at times by the health professionals.

“Over the course of her treatment our client’s daughter was given Quetiapine, Clopixol and Zuclopenthixol, and finally Lithium, however it was noted she had issues with taking medication properly.  Just over a week before her death her father told the doctors he was concerned for her safety, sadly just a day later he returned home to find her dead,” said Jacqueline.

Failure to prevent suicide

In this case, the Northern Care Alliance did not provide her or her family with a Lithium Information Booklet and advice on its role in reducing suicide when taken correctly, nor did they monitor its effect on her, nor monitor her serum levels after prescription and for the 25 days preceding her death.  It was alleged that she should not have been discharged from the hospital and sent home when in a depressive phase of her bipolar disorder.

Some of the factors surrounding suicide and negligence are:

  • An incorrect diagnosis of mental health illnesses
  • Medication incorrectly given or not monitored
  • A failure to identify risk in the patient
  • Lack of communication between health professionals and next of kin
  • A lack of appropriate referrals, or time lapses in treatment
  • Discharge from the hospital when clearly the patient needed to remain

“Sometimes I get asked why compensation claims are made for suicide, but often when a family comes to us they just want an apology, answers and the reassurance that investigations will be done and hopefully the same will not happen and another family will not have to go through what they have gone through,” said Jacqueline.

How can we help?

Every case is different but our team specialises in getting clients and their families compensation and often an admittance of breach of duty of care from hospital trusts, doctors and GPs.  For legal advice contact our medical negligence solicitors on 0161 785 3500 or email

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

Written by Jacqueline White


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