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Old 07-07-2007, 07:09 AM
Mother Jones, RN's Avatar
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Default Filing Legal Charges Against Assaultive Patients.

Several years ago, I took care of a patient who attacked me and another nurse. We were both badly beaten, and the other nurse required a CAT scan of her head due to the severity of her injuries. Before the assault, the individual said, “There’s nothing you can do to me because I’m a psych patient.” In other words, this person believed that they would not be held accountable for their criminal behavior because they were on a psychiatric unit. You maybe thinking, “Did the patient have a mental illness, and did they have the capacity to know the difference between right and wrong?” The patient was mentally ill, however, the patient also knew that what they were doing was wrong, and so I went to the county courthouse the next day to bring charges against the patient for second-degree assault. There was a mixed reaction among my peers about me taking my patient to court. My attitude was if you do the crime, you do the time, however many of my nursing colleagues were aghast that I would send a patient to jail for beating me. What would you do in that situation?
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Old 07-07-2007, 05:34 PM
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Send his behind packing to jail. We are humans not punching bags. I applaud you for taking your stance. One of the doctors I work with took the same stance as you; sent his patient packing to the jail after he was assaulted by him. The difference? The doctor had to suture the patient's initial injury.
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Old 07-07-2007, 11:32 PM
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If he hurt someone bad enough for them to need a CAT scan, I would have definitely considered filing charges.

What did your coworker do?

*I'm* aghast that your coworkers did not stand behind you. I've been hit a few times by confused patients, but I've never been beaten. That's a whole different ball game.
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Last edited by geenaRN; 07-07-2007 at 11:34 PM. Reason: added more thoughts
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Old 07-08-2007, 11:19 AM
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My coworker who was hurt went to court with me, and was very supportive of my efforts. She did not file charges because she was afraid of retribution from the patient and from the hospital. Hospital administration was not happy that I took one of their "customers" to court. Everything worked out in the end. We do not have civil commitment in my state. During the sentencing phase of the trial, I asked the court to give the patient probation based on the patient's medication compliance, thereby turning a criminal proceeding into a civil commitment. The judge told me that I was the first nurse in the state to make something like that happen. It benefited the patient, his family, and the people of our community. For this, hospital administrators treated me like dirt. And so it goes.
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Old 07-13-2007, 07:52 AM
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I would have their rear in jail so fast their heads would spin and I would perservere and persist until they were so miserable mental illness would be the LEAST of their problems.

Not to mention the civil suit I'd file (can you tell I'm married to an attorney?)

Fortunately, I have never run into this situation, and I hope I never do. I wonder how many nurses get PTSD after something like this...
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Old 07-13-2007, 07:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mother Jones, RN View Post
My coworker who was hurt went to court with me, and was very supportive of my efforts. She did not file charges because she was afraid of retribution from the patient and from the hospital. Hospital administration was not happy that I took one of their "customers" to court. Everything worked out in the end. We do not have civil commitment in my state. During the sentencing phase of the trial, I asked the court to give the patient probation based on the patient's medication compliance, thereby turning a criminal proceeding into a civil commitment. The judge told me that I was the first nurse in the state to make something like that happen. It benefited the patient, his family, and the people of our community. For this, hospital administrators treated me like dirt. And so it goes.
You rock! What a great thing to do - and precedent setting, too! Was there any feedback from the patient or his family re: the civil committment? Forget expecting the hospital to do the right thing. We're just bodies to them (and right now this body is at work...reading!)
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Old 07-13-2007, 11:34 AM
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The patient's sister was in the courtroom and she was thrilled when the judge made his ruling. She told the judge that the family had been trying to get the patient to take medication, but that the patient refused to be med compliant. Everything worked out for the best.
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