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Judge: Veteran's suicide is not wrongful death

In a recent ruling by a U.S. district judge, a claim for wrongful death against the Veterans Affairs hospital that misdiagnosed cancer has been rejected. The daughter of a man who committed suicide filed the wrongful death claim, as well as claims for her father's pain and suffering.

The man was seen at the VA hospital and was diagnosed with prostate cancer. His doctors told him that he needed a radical prostatectomy, which left him incontinent and with sexual dysfunction. The man needed diapers in order to go anywhere, and his relationship with his girlfriend suffered.

It took two months before the doctors realized there had been a mistake made. The man did not have cancer; instead, his biopsy sample was mixed up with another patient's.

The government did not dispute that the mix-up did not meet the medical standard of care. However, they disputed the wrongful death claim because the man committed suicide. The judge said that while the doctor reported that the man was "hopeless and saw no future for himself ... this is significantly different than being 'insane and bereft of reason' in terms of whether the act of suicide is 'voluntary,' thereby 'breaking the causal connection between the injury and the suicide.'"

The man was not under the care of the mental health department at the hospital, so there was no claim for psychiatric malpractice either, according to the judge.

The man's daughter, though, will pursue compensation for her father's pain and suffering. While seeking such compensation won't hold the hospital responsible for the man's wrongful death, it may provide some sense of closure.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has been in the media a lot lately due to accusations of understaffing and excessive wait times for appointments as well as other problems involving the covering up of errors. An experienced personal injury attorney can provide medical malpractice victims and their families with more information about how the process works to seek compensation from a government entity.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Court Win for VA Despite Terrible Misdiagnosis" Lorraine Bailey, Sep. 25, 2014

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