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Bereaved family of solicitor settles claim for six-figure sum against treating psychiatrist

The family of a man who died whilst under the care of his treating psychiatrist, who was working privately at The Priory Hospital, have successfully concluded their clinical negligence claim against the psychiatrist. A claim was not pursued against The Priory Hospital.

Medical records

9 May 2017

Mr K, whose family do not wish for him to be identified, was 51-years-old and had no relevant medical history and no symptoms of significant psychiatric disorder when he began suffering with anxiety attacks.
 
He was seen by his GP and a counsellor arranged by his employer, to whom he described fleeting thoughts of suicide. At his second appointment Mr K informed the counsellor that he had left work in the middle of the day and had taken a train to Cambridge with the intention of taking his own life. As a result of this he was referred privately to a psychiatrist at The Priory Hospital for treatment.
 
Mr K described his suicidal thoughts, suicide attempt, stress and anxiety to his psychiatrist. 
 
On his Assessment Form, Mr K ticked to confirm that he had felt terribly alone and isolated, he sometimes had thoughts of hurting himself, he sometimes made plans to end his life, he often felt overwhelmed by his problems, and sometimes thought it would be better if he were dead. Mr K also ticked to confirm that his clinical information could be shared with his GP and his wife. The consent form was not signed or dated. The treating psychiatrist alleged that Mr K agreed for information to be shared with his GP but positively refused for information to be shared with his wife.
 
Mr K returned to The Priory Hospital a week later as an outpatient and began participating in group therapy sessions.  By this stage, Mr K, a solicitor, was signed-off from work and his employer was aware that he was suffering from depression and stress.
 
Over the course of the following two weeks Mr K attended group therapy sessions at the Priory on 5, 10 and 11 May 2011. On 11 May 2011 Mr K disclosed suicidal thoughts in group therapy, stating that he was just waiting for his daughter to pass exams 'before I do anything’. He stated that he has had regular thoughts of suicide but did not know whether he wanted to act on them and continued to disclose suicidal thoughts and anxiety.
 
The psychiatrist considered that there had been deterioration in Mr K's mental health.  He invited him to be admitted to the hospital as an inpatient but Mr K remained adamant he did not want to be admitted. Mr K’s treating psychiatrist prescribed Diazepam medication.
 
Mr K was reviewed by his treating psychiatrist for the last time on the afternoon of 11 May 2011 when the psychiatrist told him he was going on leave the following day and that if Mr K was distressed he should contact his colleague. In his handover notes to his colleague Mr K’s treating psychiatrist referred to the fact that Mr K was having serious suicidal thoughts but that he did not want to be admitted to hospital.
 
Neither Mrs K nor Mr K’s GP were advised of the deterioration in Mr K’s mental health.  Mr K returned for a group therapy session the following day.
 
On returning from this group session Mr K’s wife noted that he was unresponsive and in a very dark place.  Tragically, three days later Mr K took his own life.
 
Mr K’s claim settled three weeks before trial for a six-figure sum, with no admission of liability.
 
Mr K’s family were represented in their claim against his treating psychiatrist by specialist medical negligence solicitors Emmalene Bushnell and Kriya Amin.
 
Emmalene Bushnell, partner in the medical negligence team at Leigh Day, said:
 
“This has been an extremely distressing time for Mr K’s family, in which they have had to come to terms with the loss of a much loved husband and father. Whilst no admission of liability was made by the treating psychiatrist, we are pleased that we have settled Mrs K’s claim and assisted in obtaining the answers for Mr K’s family which would not have been forthcoming without a clinical negligence claim.”
 
Kriya Amin, solicitor in the medical negligence team at Leigh Day, said:
 
“Mr K’s family approached solicitors seeking answers for the treatment that Mr K had received and an understanding of what Mr K’s treating psychiatrist had known of his mental health state in the lead-up to his tragic death.  Neither Mrs K nor Mr K’s GP were advised of the deterioration in Mr K’s mental health.  This has been very distressing for Mrs K who now faces her future without her husband who she was looking forward to retiring with.”
 
Mr K’s wife said:
 
“Not a day goes by where we do not feel the loss of a wonderful husband and father - a loss made all the worse by the fact that it was preventable since Mr K said during a therapy session he would take his own life. Frustratingly, despite this and a substantial settlement award, liability was not admitted.
 
“We would like to thank Leigh Day and in particular Emmalene, Kriya and all those involved in handling this case for their professionalism and sympathy.”

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