Is it possible to go after a behavioral health center for negligence?
Question Details: Last month, I had my husband Baker Acted for alchohol abuse as well as severe depression and anxiety. I felt like he was on the verge of hurting himself. I won't go into all the examples for times sake. He was taken to a facility. After he arrived I explained to the intake person that he was on high doses of anti-depressants and anxiety medications. I was told throughout his stay that he was receiving one on one counseling and was working with a psychiatrist to get his meds straight. He was there for 14 days. During this time he never received counseling and met with a psychiatrist 1 time for 15 minutes. They did not give him any of his anti-depressants. He was removed from them cold turkey. When I asked why he wasn't given these I was told we don't trust an addict. OK, I get that, but what about calling his pharmacy or primary care doctor to verify. It has been 5 weeks since he was released and mentally and emotionally he is far worse than when he supposedly received treatment. His blood pressure has been very high ever since. We have been advised that this is one of the side effects of being removed from his particular medication cold turkey. He has a form of PTSD following this treatment. What was supposed to be helpful only made things worse due to the negligence.
Yes, a behavioral center can commit malpractice if they provide care that is negligent, or careless. And the behavior you describe seems like it would be negligent: no counseling, taking him cold turkey with no or miminal supervision, etc.
The question is, is it worth pursuing legal action? Malpractice cases are expensive--above and beyond the lawyer's fee (you really want an attorney for a malpractice case, though many lawyers will handle them on a "contingency" basis--i.e. the lawyer is only paid if you win), you need to hire medical experts (e.g. substance abuse counselors or psychiatrists) who can examine your husband, right a report, and testify in court, and as you can imagine, such do not work inexpensively. On the other hand, you can only recover compensation for the provable and quantifiable long-lasting or permanent harm or life impairment suffered (technically, you can get compensation for a short period of impairment, but the amount would be so small as to not be worth pursuing) and for the additional medical bills you incurred due to the malpractice. If your husband, as we hope, recovers well and in a reasonably short period of time, there would be no point to legal action: you would not get enough to justify it.
A good idea would be to consult with a malpractice attorney--many will offer a free consultation to evaluate a case, and you can confirm this before making the appointment--to see if your case is economically worthwhile. Good luck.