Family sues state for failing to save their daughter

Date: Feb 16, 2020

A claim has been filed in the Supreme Court of Victoria by the family of Marlene Sako, a 25-year-old nurse who set herself on fire and died in 2015. According to The Age, Sako’s surviving relatives are suing Northern Hospital in Epping, Northwestern Mental Health and the triple-zero emergency phone line operators over Marlene’s death.

Sako’s family claims that in the two years leading up to Marlene’s death, all of these organisations failed to provide their daughter with adequate mental health care. Marlene’s mother and five siblings also claim they suffered significant post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety as a result of witnessing Marlene’s death.

“When she became unwell, it was so hard to watch her suffer,” Tereza Sako, Marlene’s mother, said in a statement. “We tried and tried to get services in place for her, but no one was willing to listen to us. No one was willing to help. She didn’t believe anyone would help her and she was right.”

The family claims they reached out to the medical staff at Northern Hospital on numerous occasions but did not receive adequate support.

  • In February 2014, Marlene went to the Northern Hospital emergency room after taking six paracetamol tablets, stating she was thinking about suicide. She was told to see her general practitioner and discharged.
  • Five months later she returned with abdominal pain, and liver tests indicated alcohol abuse. She came back on two more occasions after collapsing from seizures suspected to have stemmed from alcohol withdrawal.
  • In 2015, Marlene’s sister rang NorthWestern Mental Health and reported Marlene had spoke about suicide and was drinking up to four bottles of vodka per day. Later that night, Marlene experienced seizures and was admitted to Northern Hospital. The family’s legal claim alleges the hospital failed in its duty of care at this time by discharging Marlene instead of admitting her for a psychiatric assessment.
  • On 30 November 2015, Marlene’s sister called triple zero twice, saying Marlene was drunk and threatening to kill herself. Both times, the operator listed Marlene as Priority 2 – an acute but not time-sensitive case – and no police were dispatched. Shortly after, Marlene set herself on fire and ultimately died in hospital.

If you or a relative has been affected by medical negligence, Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers can help. Our supportive and compassionate team can help you understand your rights and ensure you receive the compensation you are owed.

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