Feds pay suicidal Air Force veteran’s family
HONOLULU (AP) _ The federal government has paid $800,000 to the family of a suicidal Air Force veteran who jumped to his death from Tripler Army Medical Center after his pleas to be admitted went unheeded.
Family members alleged staff at Tripler Army Medical Center failed to acknowledge the seriousness of his condition. Attorney Rick Fried said retired Master Sgt. Robert C. Roth, 50, was not hospitalized when he made requests to be admitted.
He suffered from bipolar disorder, had a long history of depression, and committed suicide last year by jumping off the 10th floor of the hospital on the morning of Jan. 2. A month earlier, Fried said, he had suffered severe depression and expressed to the staff that he was suicidal.
The family sued the U.S. government, alleging that Tripler was careless and negligent in its care of Roth.
The settlement means a trial scheduled for next month will not be held.
Roth worked as a clerk in the records section of the hospital.
Tripler’s commander, in a statement, extended the hospital’s sympathy to the Roth family.
“Our command and well-trained staff are committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure an incident similar to this never happens again,” said Army Brig. Gen. Steve Jones.
If Tripler had admitted Roth on either of two instances in December 2006 when he went to the hospital emergency room seeking help, he would have been hospitalized for a short period, said Rick Fried, the family’s attorney.
He would have had his antidepressant medication adjusted and would have been OK, Fried said.
Instead, Roth, frustrated after waiting about three hours without being seen by a psychologist on the second visit, told hospital personnel that he planned to commit suicide by jumping from the top floor of Tripler, according to Army records and Fried. Several days later he did precisely that.
On his first visit, Roth waited more than five hours and never saw a psychiatrist, only a physician training to be one, records show. He told medical personnel he planned to jump off a Makapuu cliff, but his request to be admitted was ignored, Fried said.
Fried said Roth’s depression started to worsen in late 2006, his antidepressant medication was improperly adjusted by his Tripler physician and twice he showed up at the ER wanting to be admitted. Both times he packed an overnight bag thinking he would be.
The second time he left the ER angry — and against the advice of medical personnel — because he wasn’t being treated and had been told patients more sick were being seen before him, according to his family and Fried.
Fried said Tripler did not have a written policy for dealing with suicidal patients.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.
Attorney Gordon Johnson
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice
firstname.lastname@example.org :: 800-992-9447 :: Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.