We recently spoke about a case regarding a man named Charles Williams who suffered an apparent mental break, which led to his being shot to death by police officers. On November 21, 2014, the Court of Appeals ruled that “Health care providers are immune from liability both when they evaluate and involuntarily admit an individual and when they evaluate and decide not to involuntarily admit an individual.”

When the Maryland General Assembly created its “multi-step process” regarding involuntary admissions, it did so to address the civil rights of patients with mental health concerns, and to prevent “excessive institutionalization.” The Court of Appeals cites this as a reason why doctors should have immunity even if they do not admit a patient; as the ruling says, “it would lead to an absurd result if we were to interpret the immunity provision to only apply when someone is actually admitted.” Mr. Williams was clearly demonstrating behaviors that could be considered abnormal, and he did not request to see a doctor; his mother brought him to the hospital. Thus, his admittance to the hospital would have been involuntary, and could have led to the potential temporary or permanent loss of his liberties.

Doctors at Peninsula Regional Medical Center might have no way of knowing that Mr. Williams would endanger the lives of others, but any threat of suicide should be taken seriously. The effects of mental illness are serious and far-reaching. It is our hope that we formulate a better way to care for the mentally ill in our country.

If you have questions about medical negligence and liability, we invite you to visit Plaxen & Adler, P.A.