Woman attempts suicide then gets compensation - WTF?!

The level of compensation is not unreasonable, IMNSHO, if there is reason to believe that the delay in treatment is the largest single cause of what led to her current condition.

Based on the limited information here, I’m not sure that’s a legitimate assumption. Simply because there is a need for assistance doesn’t mean that it’s the ambulance company’s fault that there is a need, and should then be responsibile for it. This “deepest pockets” argument is one of the things that I think is currently unjust about the US’s tort system: being 5% to blame for a situation often leaves a corporation stuck with 100% of the bill.

Which, given that we know nothing about the medical niceties involved, you know how, exactly? Are you familiar with the biochemistry that caused her brain damage? Do you know when, relative to the ambulance arriving, she took the overdose? Do you know even what painkillers she took, how many, or with how much alcohol? No, you do not, and yet you’re quite happy to second-guess the judgment of an informed court with medical advice. Now it’s quite possible that those 16 minutes wouldn’t have made a difference, but you appear to have decided that they didn’t and on this absolutely baseless assumption proceed to condemn the entire court decision. This is what really annoys me about these “compensation culture” stories; they demand that we make snap judgments on absolutely minimal (if not distorted) information in order to extract a desired reaction. It’s a cheap reporting technique, and it’s the sort of thing that never gets re-examined once the Shock! Horror! has worn off.

There are multiple duties of care at play here; one is that we in the UK pay a veritable fuckload of taxes for our public health services, part of which includes a timely ambulance service which in the view of the court failed this woman. If you accept that PPD is a disease, why do you not accept that the people paid for and charged with this woman’s care have no responsibility for their failures? Why should someone with a mental disease be any less entitled to prompt emergency service than someone with a brain haemorrhage?

Sorry, but I think you have absolutely no basis for this statement than your own snap judgement on minimal facts. Maybe it was wrong, maybe it wasn’t, but the sheer adamance on display in this thread is positively staggering.

Regardless of whether or not this particular lawsuit is valid/moral/whatever: Am I the only one who’s freaked out by the fact that the ambulance drivers - one would assume they’re trained professionals - got lost? Don’t they have to pass some sort of test or something? Or at least know how to read a map? Tell east from west?

If I ever need an ambulance for whatever reason, they’d sure as hell better know every possible way to get to whever I am, and they’d better do it as fast as possible: isn’t that their job? If they’re that incompetant that they get lost for 15 minutes, I somehow doubt that they’re going to do much good in a major medical emergency.

I believe that the pertinent word in my post was “seems,” as in “based on what little we have to go on in a message board post, which may of course not be every fact available.” Good Lord, check yourself.

The woman’s diagnosis or lack of it had nothing to do with the untimeliness of the ambulance service- they got lost. It happens, and the results can be tragic, but I fail to see malice there.

Dead Badger, it would appear based on the limited (if not downright minimal) information contained in this thread that you are very, very involved in this debate on an emotional level. As I am not, I apologize if my post was somehow beyond the pale for you.

So if a guy went up into the mountains and got lost or attacked by animals and then called an ambulance and it got lost and he was severely injured (more than he would be otherwise) as a result, would you also deny his claim? If someone had a bad reaction to a recent tattoo, and the ambulance got there late and as a result they had to get their arm chopped off, would you deny that claim? If so, good, at least you’re consistent. If not, aren’t you just vilifying this woman because of her suicide?

An emergency situation is an emergency situation. A lot of emergencies are caused by self-inflicted stuff, and if you count letting a disease (a physical one, like cancer) go to the point where you need emergency care instead of getting it looked at earlier, probably the majority of emergency cases are self-inflicted. Personally, I found most of the cases listed at the bottom of the page to be more offensive than this one.

IANAL, but it would seem reasonable to look for the root cause of the situation- an act or thing that you can point to and say “This is it! All the other stuff flowed directly from THIS!”

Without lots of other specific detailed info, it would appear that her suicide attempt was the primary cause of all the subsequent, related problems, not the ambulance service (or lack thereof).

Of course, if her PPD was the root cause (behind the suicide attempt), then we should be looking at those charged with her care prior to the suicide attempt for recompense- her primary caregiver (the husband), her physicians, etc.

Or is it completely ridiculous to try and apply common sense here?

Do you think none of these things actually occurred to the judge during the trial? Since (based on one newspaper article) we have zero evidence to make a judgment either way, it strikes me as bizarre that you would assume that evidence wasn’t brought during the trial to address these things.

Honestly, I know hysteria over “frivolous lawsuits” is all the rage lately, but these stories seem to prove one thing over all, and that’s that the media do a ridiculously poor job of actually communicating the facts underlying these situations. There’s a tremendous propaganda push afoot - at least here in the United States - to convince us all that frivolous lawsuits are going to be society’s downfall; personally, I don’t tend to buy into it, but then, I have a policy of skepticism towards whatever viewpoints are being most heavily pushed by the mass media.

At any rate, the assumption by posters here that we have all the facts at our disposal, or at least we have all the facts that the court did, is a bad one. It’s ridiculous to second guess the trial by assuming that (since the one newspaper article linked didn’t speak on the issue) no expert medical advice was sought, and the actual 16 minute delay (and whatever other factors were glossed over in the article, since it hinted that more mistakes were made) wasn’t shown clearly to be the proximate cause of her injury.

If you wish to argue that people who attempt suicide are not entitled to the same standard of medical care as anyone else, that’s a potentially reasonable (though, in my opinion, repugnant) argument to make. If you wish to argue that the basic concept of medical malpractice is flawed, you could do that too, but that’s a pretty damn tall order. But assuming since one newspaper story didn’t explain every factor that went into a no doubt extremely complex decision that those factors must not have been taken into account is a bizarre failure to think critically (or indeed think at all) about the media’s one-sided depiction of the story. Guessing that the court didn’t attempt to determine the actual role of the ambulance’s fuck-up in coming to its judgment, though, is truly absurd. Assuming that there were, you know, attorneys working on the defendants’ behalf, of course those issues were raised, and to suggest otherwise without evidence is absolutely ludicrous.

It’s a useful skill to analyze newspaper articles and such for the particular viewpoint that’s being pushed. Y’all might want to try it out sometime. I don’t know enough about this case to decide whether the judgment was right or not (for whatever my opinion is worth), but at least I know enough to know that I don’t know the case.

Um, no it wouldn’t.

Hypothetically, what if a bystander was shot in a convenience store hold-up, and would have survived under adequate medical care - but the doctor treating them screwed up in some major way, and the bystander died? Under your standard, the doctor wouldn’t be held liable for malpractice, because the “root cause” was the shooting. Sure, the shooter should be punished, but that doesn’t mean the doctor gets a free pass on any subsequent negligence. Or at least that’s nothing like how the system works, since virtually any medical malpractice claim stems from a previous medical problem with some other cause.

If a medical practitioner fucks up in treating a patient, it’s called malpractice. It’s certainly not standard practice to say that the doctor would never have gotten the chance to screw up in the first place if the patient had never been ill. The logical result of your argument, if you stop and think about it, is that virtually all medical malpractice claims would have to be dropped. Basically, the entire concept of medical malpractice should be scrapped. Do you want to start that argument? I certainly don’t know enough about the subject to truly debate it, but based on your own evaluation of this situation, I’m guessing you, EJsGirl, don’t either.

Assume (this section no longer specifically directed at EJsGirl), for the sake of argument, that the people treating the woman somehow fucked up. None of us, of course, are equipped to even guess at that, but we can all be fairly sure that the court took that small matter into account in making its decision. Then, logically, if we aren’t holding them liable, it means that either: (1) doctors are practically never to be held liable when they screw up, since there’s virtually always some previous, underlying problem being treated, or (2) this case is special, because the woman caused the problem herself, rather than being the victim of someone else’s actions or of circumstance. If you go for option (2), then you’re essentially saying that those who attempt suicide are simply not entitled to the same standard of care as the rest of us. I find that morally repugnant, but it’s at least a consistent position to argue. (Though we run into the question of how far to take it. If a surgeon leaves a glove in a patient during a bypass procedure, is he off the hook because the patient wouldn’t have needed a bypass if they hadn’t spent their life eating saturated fat?)

None of us have even the barest hint of the information that the court evaluated in making it’s decision. You can decide, if you want, that the ambulance’s failure wasn’t adequately proven in court. But, if you make that decision, be sure to realize that you’re making an extraordinary claim - a malpractice judgment was made without actually establishing that malpractice occurred - with absolutely no evidence to back your position up. We don’t have the facts in this newspaper article to even guess at what information was taken into account in coming to a verdict. It strikes me as arrogant and, frankly, feeble-minded to assume because we can’t see for ourselves (based on one newspaper article) that the decision was correct that the decision must therefore have been wrong.

It’s not, but I suppose I should give up hope that it will happen. Once the magic words “frivolous lawsuit” are uttered, people’s brains seem to turn off.

My God, I’ve started seeing the fnords!

. . .

Of course, malice isn’t the only reason to file a lawsuit. There’s also incompetence. Seems to me, ambulance drivers ought to be familiar enough with what ever area their job is to serve so that they don’t get lost. That these drivers did get lost suggests to me that either they need to be better trained, or there needs to be a higher barrier to becoming an ambulance driver. It shouldn’t take them a quarter of an hour just to figure out where they’re supposed to be going.

This doesn’t make sense. In any medical situation, the injury or illness is almost always going to be the primary cause of all the subsequent, related problems. If a doctor criminally botches a bypass surgery, do we excuse him on the grounds that the patient never would have died if he hadn’t gone and had a heart attack in the first place? The woman was suffering from a serious, life-threatening medical condition. It was the responsibility of the ambulance drivers to tender aid to her as quickly and competently as possible. That responsibility exsists regardless of what their patient is suffering from. A court found that they failed in that responsibility, and owed that woman damages, not just for failing her, but as a punitive measure to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future. Next time it might be some kid on a bike who got hit by a careless driver, or someone suffering from a heart attack, or the victim of a violent crime. People in the medical field have a responsibility to all of these people equally. It is not lessened because one person has injured themselves by their own hand, or another person was stupid or careless, or a third lived an unhealthy lifestyle.

Even if there were incompetence on one of these fronts, it wouldn’t excuse incompetence on the part of the ambulance drivers. In addition, should her physicians be expected to be able to diagnose psychological issues? Should her husband? If she didn’t already have a psychiatrist or psychologist, who, exactly, should be expected to recognize the symptoms of post-partum depression?

“Common sense,” in my experience, is usually a euphamism for, “I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I’ve still got an opinion about it.”

I think it’s also useful to highlight this particular passage from the article, which everyone seems to have overlooked:

Note the bolded portion: the lateness of the ambulance was not the only error, it’s just the only one specifically mentioned in the article. In addition, the heart attack that caused the brain damage occured after she was under medical care, and, in the finding of the court, was a direct result of mistakes made while she was under medical supervision.

Frankly, considering the extent of the damage, 2.8 million sounds a little light to me.

In preview, I see Excalibre has already made all these posts, and better than I have. The bastard.

What crawled up your ass and died?

I’m terribly glad you made this statement, because it shows you do not have the true grasp of what depression is. Sometimes, and many times in my own past, I was too far gone to recognize the symptoms. Luckily, I’ve learned to recognize my triggers and my beginning slides, but this is a MEDICAL case, psychological or not. It’s not a phenomenon, it’s a disease. If I am in the midst of a full-blown psychotic episode and I am just so far down that I am convinced that I am a horrible person, everyone is watching and following me, and plotting against me, and eventually might harm me, I may just decide to do it myself anyway. Spent four weeks in my closet at one time feeling just that way. Luckily, I had someone else who knew my illness and was able to get me the help I needed.

She’s not to be vilified, she’s to be pitied. PPD is a severe, serious condition. Thank GOD it didn’t manifest in hurting the child!

There’s a flip side to everything. Please be more cautious about things which you readily admit you have sparse knowledge.



I know Simon Maskrey QC, he’s given guest lectures on medical negligence at my university. This guy is not an ambulance chaser who would agree to work on a case without merit.Most medical negligence cases in the UK never even make it to court, if this one was sompletely without merit it would have been shot down much earlier.

The facts of the case will obviously never come to light fully because the hospital chose to settle. Settling is what hospitals normally do when they expect to lose.

HOWEVER, if the crew took 30mins to arrive (when they should have taken 10-15) and then didn’t give the patient appropriate care when they DID arrive, then it is negligent of them and a settlement is appropriate.

Whether her original illness was self-inflicted is irrelevant.
If this was a 50 year-old smoker who had a heart attack or someone who fell off a ladder Dead Cat may feel differently about the award, but the truth is that their conditions would be equally self inflicted.

If this outcome was predictable and preventable by appropriate care and the appropriate care was not provided then whether you like it or not it is a breach of a duty of care resulting in forseeable harm to the person concerned, which, by definition is negligence.

Not really, actually, and no apology necessary at all. Slightly embarrassing, really, was just a) irritable for other reasons and b) slightly drunk last night. Not that I disagree with what I said, mind, but the whole sabres-at-dawn tone is, er, slightly more strident than I’d’ve normally aimed for. :slight_smile:

Dead Cat, if you’re interested in learning more about the reality of depression, please send me an e-mail (my e-mail address is in my profile). You see, I’ve been pretty unabashed about dealing with it for over 20 years and I’ve talked about it pretty openly here. You might also want to check out this GD thread, Why Is Suicide Bad? or this Pit thread, Another One for smith537. Both of them have information on suicide and depression.


'Scuse the followup post, but to be honest, reading it again I’m not particularly convinced I was all that strident anyway, this being the pit 'n all. I do find it slightly irritating that people are prepared to effectively say “hey, we don’t really know what went on, but if we make up some extraneous facts, ignore some other salient ones and apply a homely-sounding yet completely misunderstood interpretation of the law, well then this case sounds pretty frivolous, doesn’t it!” Well, sure, but then you might as well just make up cases entirely. And the next time the Times wants to bang on about the “compensation culture”, this story will be reduced to a footnote - “remember that woman who tried to kill herself and won £2.8 million? Kerrrrazy!” with not even the bare attempt at balance they made in the OP’s link.

Anyway, at this point Excalibre has made pretty much every point I wanted to make and more, and without apparently demonstrating some deep emotional connection, so I take my duelling hat off to him, while sticking my tongue out when he can’t see.

Well it wouldn’t have died if the ambulance had gotten there on time.

Do we know if the victim was undergoing treatment for her depression at the time of the suicide attempt? While the ambulance company would seem to be responsible for some of the injuries (I’d also like to know the “catalogue of errors” if anyone can find a cite), anyone that was treating her depression could also share liability since the whole thing started with the suicide attempt.

We don’t know, but again I should point out that this story taking place in the UK as it did, the respectively liable parties would most likely be the NHS and, well, the NHS. So the distinction, while it may be a valid one, is ultimately moot.

OIC. Thanks for the correction.

Just to be contrarian:

I am and have been clinically depressed for 12 years, and I think people do bear significant responsibility for things they do while depressed, including suicide attempts. Without knowing the details, it’s possible there were real errors (giving the wrong meds, etc) by the ambulance people.

People who are so depressed that they seriously aren’t responsible for their actions are probably unable to function at all; I don’t know if that’s what this mom is like or if she is a more garden-variety depressive. I do know that if I start slashing away at my wrists and end up dead, the ultimate blame lies with me.

We’re only human, you know. Roads change, new houses are built, roads are under construction. Also, there’s dispatch errors and people give inaccurate information when they call. Hell, people get lost. I’ve gotten lost responding to calls. I’ll get lost responding to a call in the future, too. We do our best, but it’s not reasonable to expect us to be perfect. In addition, we don’t even know that this ambulance crew got lost, they may just have had a long, long way to go. And please don’t call us ambulance drivers.

To add to what others have said, I don’t think we have anywhere near enough info on what really happened. I’m curious about what caused the delayed response and what the “catalogue of errors” was.

St. Urho