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Florida High Court Hears Arguments on Medical Malpractice and Suicide

Medical malpractice is a special kind or professional negligence that relates to a medical professional’s failure to adequately provide care to a patient in such a way that results in injury or death of the patient. When you think about malpractice, you may initially think about a doctor making a serious error in the course of a medical procedure, but what about a patient’s suicide? That is the exact question that the Supreme Court of Florida is considering in Chirillo v. Granicz.

Medical Malpractice in Florida

In Florida, a medical malpractice claim is based on the rendering of, or the failure to render, medical care or services. Specifically, a patient will have a claim for medical malpractice where the medical professional fails to use reasonable care. The reasonable care required of a medical professional is the same level of care, skill, and treatment that is deemed acceptable and customary by similar and reasonably careful medical professionals in light of all relevant facts and circumstances.

Facts of the Case

In Chirillo v. Granicz, the plaintiff is the estate of a patient, Jacqueline Granicz, who was treated by Dr. Chirillo, her family practitioner, for depression. Ms. Granicz had a history of depression and was being treated with medication for the condition. After Ms. Granicz called Dr. Chirillo’s office about feeling some ill effects and mental strain as a result of stopping one of her medications, Dr. Chirillo prescribed a different medication aimed at treating Ms. Granicz’s condition. The plaintiff alleged that Dr. Chirillo knew of the danger of stopping Ms. Granicz’s first medication, and also knew the newly prescribed medication would not have any therapeutic effort for a few weeks. The plaintiff alleged that despite knowing these dangers, Dr. Chirillo did not see Ms. Granicz or appropriately counsel her on her condition or the change and efficacy of the medications prescribed. Unfortunately, Ms. Granicz committed suicide the next day. Ms. Granicz’s husband filed suit on behalf of Ms. Granicz’s estate against Dr. Chirillo for medical malpractice and alleged that he breached the appropriate standard of care when treating Ms. Granicz. Ms. Granicz’s estate presented expert testimony that suggested the acceptable level of care and treatment for Ms. Granicz’s situation would have been to have Ms. Granicz come in the office for an assessment to determine the risk of suicidal thoughts and provide counseling on the change in medication. The Florida Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in Dr. Chirillo’s appeal from a lower court that permitted the estate’s case for medical malpractice to continue.

Implications of Chirillo v. Granicz

Each year, scores of patients are treated for varying degrees of depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. Unfortunately, despite the treatment available for these serious illnesses, suicide is the 9th leading cause of death in the State of Florida according to the Florida Suicide Prevention Coalition. The Florida Supreme Court’s pending decision will have new implications on the duty of care required of medical practitioners who treat patients with mental illness. At issue is the foreseeability of the potential for depressed patients to commit suicide or otherwise injure themselves or others. If the high court’s questioning of the parties’ attorneys during the course of oral argument is any indication, it seems the court is considering why suicide should be treated any differently than other health risks given what the medical community now knows about mental illness, the side effects of depression medications, and the pattern of behavior of those suffering from mental illness. Regardless of which way the court rules, the court’s decision will provide important guidance on the scope of a medical professional’s duty of care when treating patients with serious mental conditions.

Your Medical Malpractice Case

If you are faced with medical malpractice you will have to prove that the medical professional that treated you breached the applicable standard of care. You will need evidence, and likely expert testimony, to establish your claim. Also, it is important to note that Florida law requires that the medical malpractice attorney representing the plaintiff make a reasonable investigation and assessment of the facts of the claim, and verify that there is a good faith basis for making the claim before the lawsuit can be filed.

A successful claim for medical malpractice will entitle you to compensation for your injuries and losses. You will be entitled to the costs of medical expenses related to your injury, including future medical costs for the treatment of you injury. If you have lost wages because of missed work, or will now face a loss of earning capacity on the basis of your injury, you will be entitled to compensation to make you financially whole. Other compensation you could expect includes damages for your pain and suffering and emotional distress that you may experience as a result of your injury. Depending on the facts of your case, you may also be entitled to damages for loss of consortium, which includes the loss of marital benefits and companionship.

If you have suffered injury as a result of medical malpractice, including inadequate care, the time for filing your suit is limited. In Florida, you have two years from the date you discovered your injury was the result of medical malpractice to file your claim, which is known as the statute of limitations. However, in most circumstances you also only have four years from the date of the event of malpractice to file a suit, which is known as the statute of repose. If you fail to file your claim in time, you will be barred from seeking recovery.

Contact a Florida Medical Malpractice Attorney

Medical malpractice cases can be extremely complex. If you have suffered injury or someone you know has died as a result of serious medical mistake or inadequate care, contact the experienced Florida medical malpractice attorneys at The Pendas Law Firm for help. You do not have to face your situation alone and a knowledgeable attorney can help review your case and determine if you may be entitled to compensation for you injuries. Call The Pendas Law Firm today for a free and confidential consultation.

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