Friday, August 22, 2008

Nurse's unsympathetic comments about a patient may have contributed to her subsequent suicide

From this report in the Sydney Morning Herald (via Charlottesvillle Prejudice and Civil Rights Watch):

ALLEGED comments by a senior nurse that a patient’s attempt at suicide was “attention-seeking” may have contributed to the patient’s subsequent death, an
inquest has heard.

Emily Chapman, 20, took her life in February 2006 while being treated at the Cumberland Hospital psychiatric unit for a serious mental disorder.

It is alleged that following Ms Chapman’s earlier suicide attempt, a senior night nurse, Margot Gattenby, said she was “just an attention-seeker”.

“If she was serious she would not have pressed the [emergency] button,” Ms Gattenby is alleged to have told another nurse within Ms Chapman’s earshot.

Ms Gattenby denies the allegation, as well as the claim that she had told Ms Chapman she had “run out of compassion” for her and that she was not really ill.

Dr Phillip Brown, an independent psychiatrist who examined Ms Chapman’s case, yesterday told Glebe Coroner’s Court that if the allegations were true, Ms Chapman would have developed the perception that her nursing staff believed she was attention-seeking and she would shy away from interacting with them.

Under questioning, Dr Brown accepted that Ms Chapman had interacted on several occasions with some nurses after the alleged comments. However, he said she may have had particular trouble coping at night, shying away from certain nurses.

The court heard that Ms Chapman, who had frequent suicidal thoughts, had told a nurse that she would not warn staff members if she had the opportunity to take her own life.

She had written a letter complaining about Ms Gattenby, but did not send it for fear of retribution.