Difficult Nervous Shock Claim Against Public Hospital Settles for over $400,000.00 Following Suicide of Negligently Cared for Family Patriarch

Published 07 Oct 2014

Our client’s in this case were a family who approached Gerard Malouf and Partners enquiring about a potential Nervous Shock claim following the suicide of a much loved family patriarch due to the negligent care of a public hospital.

In this case, the deceased was diagnosed with a serious and rare type of cancer in 2010. Throughout the early part of 2010 he consulted various healthcare instructions including the defendant hospital.

His aggressive and debilitating cancer caused terrible suffering including extensive blistering tumours, moles and lesions that riddled his body secreting blood and puss. At the same time he had to undergo chemotherapy. By April of 2010 it became clear that the much loved husband and father’s cancer would be terminal. He should have been entitled to the best possible care that could have been provided in the circumstances, that being compassionate palliative care to assist him as much as possible so far as his pain and suffering was concerned, and transition him into a state whereby through the use of ongoing palliative medication and treatment his suffering would be eased such that he could die with dignity, surrounded by his loved ones.

Tragically, this care was not provided by the defendant hospital. On several occasions the hospital and his treating specialist was made aware that he was suffering from severe depression and was in a state where he considered his life to not be worth living. He was in extensive and excruciating pain and was left embarrassed by his debilitating sickness. The defendant hospital, instead of transferring him to a palliative care facility that would cater to his and his family’s needs, discharged him home in a terminal state. During these periods between April and July he would find himself with sores, lacerations and scar lesions which were so badly affected that maggots grew in them and he was forced to wait until community nurses were able to attend his house to address his wounds, even this however was a temporary measure.

By July of 2010 it was clear for at least three months that the deceased was suffering from severe and acute depression with suicidal ideation. Despite this, he received a total lack of palliative care to relieve him from the agony and the misery of his condition so that his transition to death could be one of dignity.

In a state of hopelessness, a man who was once considered a messianic patriarchal figure of his family took his own life in his family home. The horror of his suicide caused permanent psychiatric damage to his family members and these horrors could have been avoided if the defendant hospital acted on the knowledge of his psychiatric state, as well as his clear medical condition.

Feeling disempowered and with the knowledge that if it was not for the negligence of the hospital, their much loved father/husband would have been given a peaceful death surrounded by his loved one, this grieving family approached Gerard Malouf and Partners where Leslie Abboud, a senior solicitor with over 30 years of legal experience, took carriage of this matter.

Upon carriage of the matter it was immediately recognised that this case would be a difficult one as it is often considered that suicide would break the causal chain of liability. Nonetheless, Mr Abboud, and his specialised medical negligence team, obtained medical expert reports and opinions. Mr Abboud thoroughly reviewed the complex medical evidence and reports and furthermore briefed an experienced barrister in this matter to deal with the significant causation issues. In doing so he was able to establish a presence of negligence by the hospital from a report of a palliative care specialist as it was shown that the deceased should have been appropriately cared for by the hospital and failing to do so not only caused his deeply upsetting death, but also serious psychological issues for his family.

Equipped with this evidence of negligence, Mr Abboud was instructed by our clients that they sought to negotiate to have this matter resolved in a timely fashion to allow the family to grieve and obtain some closure. With these instructions Mr Abboud entered into negotiations between the parties, including the specialist barrister briefed in this matter and instructed by Mr Abboud. The matter settled at mediation over $400,000.00. This was an outstanding result especially given the difficult legal complexities of this case. Our clients were very pleased and we hope that this settlement both helps encourage hospitals to ensure their patients are properly cared for and that their psychological state is taken seriously, we also hope that this assists our family of clients in obtaining some closure following such a traumatic experience.

We are highly specialised and focussed lawyers with our firm being small enough to care intimately for our clients, but large enough to have the solid, financial, medial and expert resources our clients need to match the big insurers we fight every day.

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