PENNSYLVANIA. Recently, I sought treatment a local trauma center's emergency room after a dramatically worsening two-day depression that escalated to suicidal impulses. Although I have a long history of well-managed depression and anxiety, there have never been any suicidal impulses until a few hours before my trip to the hospital. During my ER triage interview, I explained that I had no outside triggers that were sparking the depressive episode and that I had been taking all of my usual medications on time and that none had changed. Nevertheless, hour-by-hour, my depression was worsening and I was developing plans and heavy suicidal impulses. The triage nurse asked me to describe my plans and I told her that I had developed over a dozen "fail-proof" plans that would ensure that no one would find me and this type of thought was foreign to me and an alert to seek immediate help. As the nurse began asking me personal and demographic questions, I gave her a five-page, typed medical history with all identification, insurance, medication, allergy and previous admissions information that I keep updated and stored in my glove box for emergency situations. The triage nurse strapped an identification bracelet on my left arm and escorted me to an emergency treatment room. Along the escort, she explained to me that I would be on a "one-on-one watch" until I could be seen by an appropriate physician. I replied that I knew that I would be closely and continually watched and that I was seeking emergency room level treatment for that reason.
When we arrived in my assigned room, the triage nurse introduced me to one of the hospital's security guards. The guard shook my hand and told me his name and explained that he would be sitting at the door of my room for my own safety. He invited me to talk to him if I chose or to remain quiet if I wished. I thanked him and put my head on the bed's pillow. WITHIN FIVE MINUTES, THE SECURITY GUARD LEFT AND DID NOT RETURN.
As hours passed, my depression and suicidal impulses grew stronger. At one point, a phlebotomist came to draw blood and at another a woman from the business office came to verify insurance information. My partner came to stay with me for less than thirty minutes and then had to leave and return for a longer time later.
During my wait for treatment, the door was always opened, but given the position of my room, no one could see inside without being directly in front of the door. There were no cameras in my room.
Shortly after my partner left, two local police officers escorted a man into the room adjacent to mine. The patient was, for whatever reason, violent, verbally abusive and out of control. The man's tirade lasted for several hours as police officers and hospital security officers outside of his room taunted him thinking that the patient's behavior was in some way humorous and entertaining. Nevertheless, the loud, unruly and violent action in the room next to me upset me emotionally as my suicidal determinations worsened. A nurse came into my room to get supplies from the cabinets at the front of the room. When she did, I stood and begged her to move me to a different room as the noise, cursing and screaming in the next room was too much for me to handle in my emotional state. She curtly explained that she WOULD NOT move me to another room and that I would have to deal with the situation like everyone else. I slipped back into my bed and tried to block offending stimulus of my neighbor's actions.
After having been in the room for six hours, I arose from my bed in a detached mental state. I took a quick tour of my room on foot and stopped at the wall telephone. I gently unclipped the handset cord of the wall telephone and carried it back to the bed with me. Without full understanding of what I was happening, I stretched the cord and wrapped it vigorously four times around my neck ensuring that it was as tight as it could be. I put myself back in the bed and pulled the blanket up to my cheek as usual and felt the blood supply slowly diminish to my brain.
After the point when my body became icy and I began to feel a calming euphoria from the lack of oxygen in my brain, my partner came back to be with me for the rest of my emergency room stay.
When he entered the room, he saw that my face was strikingly blue and quickly came to me repeatedly calling my name. He said that I was unresponsive. He pulled the blanket back to determine what could be wrong and immediately saw the telephone cord wrapped around my neck. He unwrapped it as quickly as he could while yelling for help. He said that at first, a security guard entered and threw the untangled phone cord under a gurney in the hall. Next, four medical workers entered the room and began assessment and then resuscitation procedures.
The next day, I awoke in the intensive care unit intubated.
My partner told me that he was interrogated by local police as they tried to determine whether he attempted to kill me or whether I truly did make a suicide attempt. One of the detectives that interrogated him spoke with me after all of the life support tubes had been removed and asked me to recount the events that I could remember.
Clearly, I require long-term psychiatric and psychological treatment to cope with this event. No one has assessed any other long-term effects this situation has had to my body.
Clearly, the hospital mishandled me by not providing me with constant monitoring while in the emergency room. As a result, the hospital's lack of due diligence directly contributed almost wholly to the ensuing suicidal attempt. SHOULD I PURSUE LEGAL ACTION AND, IF SO, FOR WHAT?
My mind has become tangled by the trauma of the events and I desperately need help sorting where responsibilities lie, what actions should be taken, and whether what happened warrants any action at all.
I truly appreciate any intelligent guidance given.