Original article no longer available
January 24, 2007
Psychiatrist deemed MD’s risk as low
The family of a physician who committed suicide in 2004 is suing the St. John’s psychiatrist who discharged her from hospital just hours before her death.
Dr. Mary-Anne Marshall died July 6, 2004, the same day she was discharged from the Health Sciences Centre’s psychiatric unit in St. John’s by Dr. David Craig. In a statement of claim filed in Newfoundland Supreme Court, Marshall’s brother Alfred — the executor of her estate — said Marshall was admitted to hospital with a history of depression.
Days before her death, Marshall, a family physician, made a call from the hospital to the staff at her medical clinic. She asked them for a syringe and lidocaine, a pain-deadening drug, which another physician at the clinic recognized as “a suicide kit.” That physician instructed staff not to turn those items over to Marshall.
Court documents also say Marshall made what family members described as “goodbye calls,” which were reported to Craig. She was assessed by a hospital psychologist, who also reported to Craig that she was at significant risk for suicide. Her family claims Craig ignored that and other signs that she was suicidal.
Craig deemed Marshall to be at low risk for suicide and discharged her from hospital, without medication. Hours later, Marshall ended her own life.
The claim argues that both Craig and Eastern Health — the regional authority which manages the Health Sciences Centre — were negligent. It also argues that Craig should have kept Marshall in hospital for her own safety.
The claim seeks losses, including loss of income and support for Marshall’s young daughter. The suit also seeks damages as well as the legal costs of this case.
In a statement of defense, Craig said Marshall’s treatment team agreed that her suicide risk was low and that she should be discharged. He also said Marshall displayed manipulative behavior and that he took her off her medications in order to get a clear diagnosis of her condition. Craig said Marshall’s suicide came as a complete shock to him.