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Is this malpractice?

Posted by Racer on July 3, 1999, at 20:40:53

I'd like some opinions from people on the board. Some of you have read my posts, so you have a pretty good idea of what's been going on. I'll give a brief synopsis for those of you who want to check in with an opinion, but don't know the story.

About a year ago, I went into a crisis of depression. I was locked up in the county mental ward, didn't eat anything at all for the time I was there, and was released as "just fine, but needing to see someone" the next day. The doctor I was assigned to started off on the right foot, by prescribing a drug that I'd never heard of. When I asked her what sort of drug it was, and what the side effects were, she said, "It's an anti-depressant, just take it." I looked up the side effects on the internet, and was afraid to try it, but did. It made me very tense, which got worse and worse, until I couldn't eat at all because I threw up anything I tried to swallow. At that point, I called and begged to see someone else, and got an appointment with a nurse, who stood up for me in a meeting and got the doctor to agree to change the drug. That nurse is no longer working there. The new drug has relieved the anxiety that goes with depression for me, but after six months, I'm still without energy or motivation and still having periods of acute depression and suicidal impulses. In fact, even outside of the crisis periods, most days I think about suicide in terms of the things that I need to do in order to kill myself with a minimum amount of trouble for the people I care about. So, I can safely say that I'm still in a dangerous state. The doctor, though, insists that the drugs are working effectively. She said that she considers a 50% improvement in symptoms to be successful, and she insists that I've got that. I guess because I'm not so anxious anymore.

So, about a month ago, after deciding to kill myself for sure, I tried to get transferred to another doctor. No one has contacted me about that request, so I called again, and no one returned my call. I called again the following day, was referred back to the original doctor, called her office and was told that my request had been put on hold. They wouldn't tell me why. The therapist I see called, and got stonewalled, too. They said that they would need another release before they spoke with her (they already had one, and so does she), and then said that I couldn't fill one out that day. The final answer was that there was nothing that they were willing to do, at all, and nothing that I could do, or anyone outside their system could do, until they made their decision next week. If they make a decision next week, that is, since they'd promised a decision would be made no later than 15 June.

Here's my question: at what point does this move from marginally competant care to malpractice? It's been a year now, and I'm still not functional. I have stated to them that I have plans to kill myself, and begged for help to keep from doing it. Their only response is to refer me back to the doctor who's been prescribing the drugs that aren't working.

I'm pretty much at my wit's end. I've called all the other hospitals in the area between here and the next large city, San Francisco. I've even called Langley Porter in San Francisco, several hours away. No one else can see me. They all refer me back to the county hospital. The county hospital has turned me away. Since I'm asking for help to keep me from hurting myself, apparently I'm too well to be there. So, is that malpractice? I've already told my mother that I want her to find a lawyer and sue them. I didn't tell her that it's because I don't know if I can hold out long enough to get through this nightmare. One way or another, I can't believe that this could be considered adequate care under any circumstances. Anyone have any comments to make about it? Doctors especially, I'd like to hear anything that you can suggest that might make this make sense.





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