Florida Supreme Court rules doctors can be liable if patients commit suicide
Friday, August 26, 2016
Posted by: Diane Berg
ALLAHASSEE — In a unanimous decision that could influence how patients are treated for depression, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a physician could be sued for medical malpractice for a patient’s suicide.
The court found that while a Florida physician does not have a “duty” to prevent suicide for an outpatient — or a patient who is not in a hospital — the physician does have a statutory obligation to treat a patient within the standard of care.
“Although the inpatient duty to prevent suicide does not apply here, there still existed a statutory duty under section 766.102 to treat the decedent in accordance with the standard of care,” Justice Peggy Quince wrote. Her legal analysis was supported by Justices Barbara Pariente, Jorge Labarga, R. Fred Lewis and James E.C, Perry.
The more conservative judges — Charles Canady and Ricky Polston — also agreed that a physician could be sued for malpractice, but disagreed with Quince’s analysis. They did not write separate opinions.
The underlying case stems from the October 2008 suicide of Jacqueline Granicz, who hanged herself. Her husband, Robert Granicz, sued the physician, Joseph S. Chirillo, and Millennium Physician Group, for medical malpractice.
Granicz started taking the anti-depressant Effexor in 2005, but stopped in 2008, court records show.
Documents described Granicz's symptoms as “crying easily, having mental strain, feeling funny, not sleeping well, having belly pain, a burning sensation in her esophagus and loose, clear stools.”
She called Chirillo's office the day before she died and spoke to his medical staff, telling them she had not been feeling well since summer and that she had stopped taking the antidepressant.
Granicz didn’t ask for an appointment, but Chirillo made a sample of Lexapro, a different anti-depressant, available to her at his office. Chirillo also made an appointment for her gastroenterologist, court documents show.
Granicz’s husband subsequently sued the physician and his medical group, alleging Chirillo was negligent for failing to recognize that the patient was depressed, for failing to speak with her directly and for failing to conduct an evaluation before prescribing Lexapro.
A copy of the opinion is here: http://politi.co/2bIYnF2
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct an error. POLITICO Florida erroneously reported that Supreme Court Justices Charles Canady and Ricky Polston dissented with the Quince’s opinion. They agreed, but did not sign the opinion penned by Justice Peggy Quince. Canady and Polston did not write separate opinions.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/states/florida/story/2016/08/docs-can-be-liable-for-suicide-florida-supreme-court-rules-104964