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Parents File Lawsuit Against Therapists Following Daughter’s Suicide

scale of justice and gavel on deskA lawsuit has been filed by the mother and father of a Stony Brook University student who died from a self-administered overdose of anti-depressant drugs, alleging that school therapists and counselors who had been treating the girl did not appropriately address and monitor her condition over time.

Lodged in federal court in Long Island, the medical negligence lawsuit claims that the staff employed by the university were negligent in their handling of their daughter’s case and committed malpractice ultimately leading to her death.

Complaint alleges insufficient treatment

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs’ daughter was a 20-year-old journalism student at Stony Brook University who had been under the treatment of school counselors and psychologists for depression she was experiencing during the fall semester. Active in Stony Brook’s campus community, their daughter was serving as managing editor of its literary magazine and had also participated in a journalism program in China. However, despite the treatment she received, her depression worsened over the holidays, eventually leading her to take her life in a college library in January.

The complaint asserts that over the course of the fall and into the early winter, there were definite signals that the young woman’s condition was declining, yet the therapists and counseling professionals did little or nothing to intervene. The plaintiffs have stated that they are interested in furthering public awareness among members of the public as well as among providers of mental health services at colleges and universities and remind everyone that lives are often at stake when depression is involved.

Psychiatric malpractice lawsuits

It is important for everyone to realize that psychologists, psychiatrists and other providers of mental health services are under significant duties to treat their patients according to accepted standards of care and to take steps to prevent harm, including that which is self-inflicted. Patients receiving mental health treatment are often extremely fragile and it is vital that those treating them act in accordance with that level of vulnerability.

If a mental health care provider does not conduct him or herself in alignment with the level of skill and care of a reasonable provider under similar circumstances and harm subsequently results, a malpractice lawsuit may be appropriate.

Mental health professionals may be held liable for malpractice if they:

  • Fail to provide proper diagnosis or to notice that a condition has worsened

  • Fail to provide appropriate treatment

  • Fail to provide adequate supervision or monitoring for patients in danger of self-harm

  • Fail to prevent foreseeable harm

In particular, mental health care providers have a distinct responsibility to respond in a timely manner to indications that suicide or other self-harm by a patient is likely. Psychiatric malpractice plaintiffs will be required to establish that the treating professional’s acts or omissions did in fact result in the harm sustained, which can often pose a significant challenge. For that reason, it is wise to enlist the assistance of an experienced medical malpractice attorney who can carefully examine the facts of the case and assemble the evidence essential to proving actionable negligence.

Assistance pursuing a medical negligence lawsuit in NY

The Sanders Firm understand the emotional turmoil and tremendous grief that follow in the wake of a suicide. If your loved one was under the care of a mental health professional and ultimately took their own life, negligence may have been to blame. Our seasoned New York personal injury attorneys stand ready to conduct a comprehensive review of your case and to help you explore all available legal options for holding responsible parties accountable, securing fair compensation and obtaining justice on behalf of the victim.

To schedule a no-cost initial consultation, contact us at 1-800-FAIR-PLAY.

  1. New York Daily News, Stony Brook University sued over claims campus counselors failed to treat student's depression leading to suicide, https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/stony-brook-failed-depressed-suicidal-student-suit-article-1.2295276

  2. Mayo Clinic, Diseases and Conditions – Depression (major depressive disorder), https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/basics/definition/con-20032977

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