" 'He got up that morning and said, 'This medication is making me feel I want to kill myself.' "http://www.mansfieldnewsjournal.com/article/20100630/NEWS01/6300310
Mansfield widow sues over suicide
BY AL LAWRENCE • News Journal correspondent • June 30, 2010
MANSFIELD — A city woman says a local physician, while seeking a facility to treat her husband's depression, should not have sent him home to wait.
Anna Heater recently filed a lawsuit in Richland County Common Pleas Court seeking in excess of $25,000 from Dr. James E. Richardson and Mansfield Internal Medicine for negligent conduct for failing to act within acceptable standards of medical care.
According to case filings, Richardson had been 72-year-old Cecil Heater's primary care doctor since 2006, treating his depression with various medications for about nine months. On Dec. 3, 2008, Cecil scheduled an appointment with his doctor because he was thinking about killing himself.
The complaint said during the appointment, Richardson determined the need for Cecil to be admitted to a psychiatric care facility and took what the lawsuit called "minimal" steps to locate an available bed.
Richardson allowed him to leave his office while hospital arrangements were made.
Cecil Heater committed suicide later that day.
An autopsy report, filed by the Cuyahoga County Coroner's Office on Dec. 4, 2008, indicates Heater died of a gunshot wound to the chest, with the bullet piercing his heart and left lung.
The action claims the doctor was negligent because he failed to take action to make sure Cecil was supervised and admitted to a qualified facility in a timely way.
The court papers include an affidavit from a Columbus-area doctor who reviewed Heater's medical records and police reports in the case. A clinical assistant professor at Wright State University, Dr. Alan Sacolick concluded that Richardson failed to conform to applicable standards of medical care in treating Cecil Heater.
"I think the doctor should have kept him at the hospital (emergency room) until he had a bed," Anna Heater said Monday. "I truly believe he would still be alive today if he had."
Although Cecil was clinically depressed, Anna Heater told the News Journal her husband of 49 years gave no warning sign of suicide until the day he died.
Heater told the News Journal her husband's depression meds had been changed before Dec. 3 — he'd begun taking the anti-depressant Pristiq in mid-October, she said.
"He got up that morning and said, 'This medication is making me feel I want to kill myself.' "
That's when they called his doctor, she said.
Heater said her husband had been on other medications before and never said it was causing problems.
"He was still remodeling homes and buying homes at auctions and sheriff's sales to fix up. It's not like he was sitting around doing nothing," she said. "That's why it's been so hard — because we did things together."
She accompanied Cecil to his appointment and stayed in the examining room with him during the visit. Later, while awaiting word on the hospitalization, he took a gun he owned and left while she was out running an errand.
"The gun was missing, but we did not think he could do anything like that," Heater said.
Cecil Heater was found a short time later, lying in the parking lot of the Ontario Walmart, dead of a gunshot wound.
The Heaters' daughter, Brenda Heuer, said it was not an easy decision to seek legal counsel in her father's death. The goal was to help others who may be in the same situation.
"If someone says they're feeling like they need to get help, always take them seriously because you don't know what they might do," she said. "When you're on depression medication, it's important to get psychiatric care."
Richardson could not be reached for comment and the office manager for Mansfield Internal Medicine declined to speak about the lawsuit.