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If a patient commits suicide while in hospital care, does the decedent's estate have a valid wrongful death lawsuit against the hospital?
Not in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed an appeal this week from the family of a woman who committed suicide as a patient at Arkansas State Hospital.
The woman, Brenda Shelton, hung herself in her hospital room in 2008. She was still alive when nurses found her but died several days later.
The decedent's daughter, Amber Shelton, alleged in her lawsuit that the nurses who found Brenda failed to do CPR on her because no protective mouth shields were available.
Furthermore, the suit alleged that the ambulatory breathing bags which could have helped were accidentally locked away, after a nurse left her keys in the locked room.
The suit also alleged a violation of constitutional rights, claiming that hospital workers failed to treat Brenda properly once they found her hanging in her room.
The lower court dismissed the federal claims with prejudice. The state law claims were dismissed without prejudice.
A three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit affirmed the lower court's ruling. The appeals court stated that the hospital would have owed a constitutional duty to Brenda Shelton if she had been admitted involuntarily as a mental patient. In this case, Brenda Shelton admitted herself to the hospital.
The lawsuit also alleged a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The appeals court threw out those arguments as well, claiming that Brenda's voluntary admittance to the hospital negated those claims.