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Man who jumped out window in 'psychotic state' sues Health Minister

Man who jumped out window in 'psychotic state' sues Health Minister

Wednesday 12 February 2020

Man who jumped out window in 'psychotic state' sues Health Minister


An islander who jumped out of a window at the men’s shelter while suffering paranoid delusions is suing the Health Minister, and the consultant psychiatrist that assessed him, for denying his request to stay in a mental health facility just hours earlier.

Mr X* argues that the Minister - representing his department - and the psychiatrist breached their duty of care to him, and is claiming damages for the injuries he sustained during his jump, his lasting pain and suffering, and resulting loss of earnings. Both, however, strongly deny the claim.

The claim arises as a result of an incident several years ago during which Mr X jumped out of a window at Sanctuary House, where he was sleeping after suffering a psychotic episode during which he punched his girlfriend - to whom he had never been violent previously – and threw a kettle at her, before running into the street naked the previous night. 

According to documents before the Royal Court, Mr X had a history of mental health issues as well as drug and alcohol abuse. 

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Pictured: Mr X was admitted to the Emergency Department after suffering a psychotic episode.

Following the incident, Mr X was admitted to the emergency department and tried to run away, believing the on-call doctor was going to murder one of the paramedics. In his "desperation" to leave, he assaulted a night porter who was trying to prevent him from doing so. 

Mr X was eventually restrained, but kept “screaming, shouting and swearing” while his speech was “incoherent” and “rambling”. He was given a dose of sedative Lorazepam, which calmed him down, and was then assessed by an on-call psychiatrist and an on-call consultant psychiatrist.

During that assessment, Mr X says neither examined his “state of mind leading up to his severely disturbed behaviour” and claims they would not have been able to decide whether his conspiratorial beliefs remained.

Mr X says he was discharged from the hospital and given an appointment later the same day at La Chasse, a psychiatric facility. A charity worker he knew accompanied him, and shared concerns that he was at “major risk of harm”, saying they had never seen “anything like this in him before”. 

Both the charity worker and Mr X asked for him to be admitted to a mental health facility due to his mental state, but the request was refused and he was discharged. Mr X says that his state of mind prior to the psychotic episode was not explored, nor was his family contacted about his prior behaviour. 

sanctuary

Pictured: Mr X was staying at Sanctuary House when he jumped out the window.

The charity worker arranged for Mr X to stay at Sanctuary House - accommodation for homeless men - and he said his last memory was going to sleep, still in fear for his own safety. His next memory was waking up in Southampton Hospital over two months later and being told he had suffered a fractured skull and several other injuries after jumping out of a window. 

Mr X claims those injuries were caused by the “negligence” of the Health and Social Services Minister and the on-call Consultant Psychiatrist who assessed him. He alleges they breached the duty of care they owed him by failing to investigate the history of his behaviour or his state of mind in the weeks leading up to the incident. 

Mr X also says they didn’t consider the cause of his “potential transient psychotic episode” adequately and failed to make a clear diagnosis or a proper assessment, which would have led to him being admitted to a psychiatric ward or hospital. 

As he was only assessed after being given a sedative, Mr X says the psychiatrist failed to “foresee that once the effects of this had worn off, his disturbed behaviours were likely to recur”. 

Finally, Mr X says they failed to take any appropriate action to ensure his safety by failing recognise the potential dangers.

Both the Health Minister and the Consultant Psychiatrist rejected the claims and denied any negligence. 

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Pictured: Both the Health Minister and the Consultant Psychiatrist rejected Mr X's claims.

The doctor noted in his response that, although Mr X claims he had not taken drugs in the weeks leading to the incident, he had described taking “an excessive amount of illicit substances in the week of his accident and specifically recalled taking crystal meth.” 

The Doctor said that Mr X was “neither agitated nor distressed” when he saw him, and there was no evidence of psychosis, self-neglect or poor hygiene. He says he carried out a risk assessment, along with an assessment of Mr X’s capacity and mental state.

Having done so, the Doctor says he “reasonably considered that [Mr X] was not a risk to himself or others at the time of assessment”.

The Doctor argued that Mr X’s psychotic episode had been caused by drugs, noting that if it had been caused by a “disease of mind” his symptoms would not have improved so quickly. 

“The fact that [Mr X] was at risk of unpredictable future drug use was not a reason to detain him,” the Doctor concluded. 

The Health Minister added that there were no clinical reasons to admit Mr X on the day of his accident as “he did not present as acutely mentally ill or a risk to himself or others".

He maintained that his employees had taken “reasonable and detailed histories” of Mr X and his family, as well as undertaken reasonable, timely and detailed assessments.

“All reasonable care was taken to ensure the health, safety and welfare of [Mr X],” he assured.

The case continues.

*Name changed to protect anonymity.

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