Wash. Hospital Sued for Not Heeding Joint Commission’s Safety Warning

SPOKANE, Wash. — The family of an Eastern State Hospital patient, who was murdered at the psychiatric institution, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the medical center, declaring that the death could have been prevented if the hospital heeded a safety warning from the Joint Commission.

In November 2012, hospital officials discovered Duane Charley lying dead on the floor in his room after a fellow mental patient told staff members that she had killed someone. A police report states that the suspect, Amber Roberts, admitted to strangling Charley with an electrical cord, The Seattle Times reports.

The lawsuit cites letters sent to Eastern State Hospital in 2006 and 2009 by the national accreditation organization warning the medical center about long cords. The 2009 letter specifically states that telephone cords “could have been used for strangulation.”

Still, the hospital only changed its policies regarding cords a month after Charley’s death when its accreditation appeared to be in jeopardy. During the Joint Commission’s inspection after the victim’s death, it found that the hospital was out of compliance on 32 standards and issued a preliminary denial of accreditation.  Eastern State Hospital regained accreditation a few months its preliminary denial.

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of money in compensatory and punitive damages.

Read the full story.

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