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Medical malpractice may not be confined to hospital settings

Most of the time we think of medical malpractice incidents, our impression is that they take place in a hospital, doctor's office, or other formal health care locations. But acts of negligence that may constitute medical malpractice can occur outside of health care institutions, and may not even need to involve people whose careers are directly connected to the health care profession.

An ongoing media investigation in Louisiana suggests that multiple medically related deaths, and lawsuits arising out of those deaths, have taken place at the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office.

The investigation looks at five instances of individuals who died while in sheriff's office custody. Two lawsuits against the sheriff's office in particular involve accusations of negligence that might otherwise occur in a hospital setting:

One involved a person who described himself as suicidal and who had a prescription for an antipsychotic medication, but who was allegedly denied that medication while in custody and placed in a cell not intended for suicidal individuals. He killed himself there.

Another involved a woman who died after being transferred from the sheriff's office to a hospital. Her father has filed suit against the sheriff's office alleging that it failed to provide her with adequate medical care, specifically with regard to an asthma condition that the plaintiff claims the sheriff's office knew about.

It is unclear from the investigation whether the lawsuits in question are medical malpractice actions or more generally negligence-based wrongful death suits. Nonetheless, they suggest that inadequate or improper medical treatment even at a non-hospital location and by non-medical personnel can still result in a medically-related injury or death.

Source: The Times-Picayune, "Dying at OPP: A look at 5 lawsuits against the New Orleans jail," Richard A. Webster, Oct. 3, 2014

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