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Case Study

Compensation for family following mother's preventable suicide

Paul McNeil and Henry Kirwan acted for family of Tina* following her tragic death aged 46.

Tina was a vibrant woman who led a full and busy life together with her husband and their two sons. Tina had a complex history of mental illness that caused intermittent episodes of depression and anxiety. This was managed with medication and she accessed treatment through her GP and the Southwest London & St George's Mental Health Trust. Sometimes Tina's episodes became overwhelming and she required treatment under the Mental Health Act. 

In early 2017, after a long period of good health, Tina became withdrawn to her bedroom. Her husband recognised the change in her behaviour that normally indicated deterioration. He reported his concern to Tina's GP.

Over the following months, Tina also reported to her GP several times. Her concern was that her medication was no longer working. Both Tina and her husband raised concerns with the GP that things were escalating in the usual pattern.

After some discussion with the community psychiatry team, the GP eventually changed Tina's medication. By that point Tina had deteriorated further. She was no longer speaking to her family and was too afraid to leave the house. When the change in medication was unsuccessful, Tina asked to be seen urgently by her NHS psychiatrist with whom she had a good relationship. She was informed that her psychiatrist could not offer an appointment for another three weeks, at which point Tina asked to see the first psychiatrist available – an indication of her desperation for help. 

Due to a failure at the hospital, Tina instead received a letter with an appointment scheduled more than a month away. Several days after receiving the appointment letter, Tina committed suicide by self-asphyxiation. She was found in her neighbour's home.

Tina's husband received very little from Tina's GP or Mental Health Services following her death, particularly in relation to why Tina did not get the help she was asking for and needed. There were investigations by the Trust and the Coroner.

It was not until Tina's husband contacted Fieldfisher about a claim for clinical negligence that some insight was provided into the failings in Tina's care. Shortly after Fieldfisher made contact with the NHS service responsible for Tina, they accepted that their failures had led to her suicide.

In a private mediation, the family recovered compensation to reflect the loss of Tina, and particularly the significant costs of raising her two sons. This money will provided some financial stability to the family after such a difficult period.

* name changed

For further information about medical negligence claims, please call Paul McNeil on 0330 460 6804 or email paul.mcneil@fieldfisher.com.

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