Physician’s Decision Not to Use Restraints on Suicidal Patient Was Not Malpractice

The administrator of an estate of a patient who suffered fatal injuries after throwing herself from an ambulance brought a medical malpractice action against a hospital, physician, and nurse. The New York court held that the attending physician's decision not to impose restraints during the patient's transfer between hospitals despite multiple suicide attempts was a matter of professional judgment, and thus the physician was not liable for the patient's death from injuries sustained when she threw herself from the ambulance. The physician discussed treatment options with psychiatric staff and knew that restraints could aggravate the patient's tachycardia and breathing difficulties, the patient was calm during her last two hours at the hospital, and the physician rightfully assumed that the ambulance attendants would closely monitor the patient who they were informed was suicidal. Also, the nurse who met the ambulance that was transferring the suicidal patient between hospitals was not professionally negligent for failing to question why the attending physician did not order restraints, and thus the nurse had no liability for the patient's death. Moreover, the nurse lacked the authority to direct the use of restraints and there was no evidence that the physician would have ordered restraints if the nurse raised the issue. See: Dumas v. Adirondack Medical Center, 932 N.Y.S.2d 230, 2011 N.Y. Slip Op. 07769 (N.Y.A.D. 3 Dept. Nov 03, 2011)