Upstream. A Mohawk Valley Blogzine.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Six Not Very Angry Men. The Jury Is In On The Suicide Of Officer William Marhafer

If William Marhafer II had been admitted to Saratoga Hospital with chest pains and then had died of a heart attack 24 hours after being released, you can bet a jury would have found the hospital and doctors responsible for his death. But Mr. Marhafer went into Saratoga Hospital on Oct. 1, 2001 for severe depression. He was released on Oct. 5. On Oct. 6 he went to the Schenectady Police Department where he worked as a police officer and killed himself with his own gun.

While it seems obvious to me that a man who kills himself 24 hours after being released from a psychiatric ward was not ready to be released, not everyone sees it that way. On Tuesday of this week, a six member jury cleared Saratoga Hospital and three of its mental health workers of any responsibility in Marhafer's death.

In 1997 Four Winds Hospital in Saratoga paid money to the widower of Kelly Hayward, 32, of Cohoes, who committed suicide after obtaining a day pass from the hospital where she was being treated for severe depression.

Four Winds accepted responsibility for its errors, Saratoga Hospital has not. In my opinion, Four Winds continues to be the best place to go in the area if you are suffering from mental illness.

By not accepting any responsibility for the death of Officer Marhafer, Saratoga Hospital may have saved itself some money, but in the long run it will be hurt by this "victory." I for one would not want to send anyone to a psychiatric ward, where the mental health workers are incapable of spotting suicide signals being sent out from an individual who is only 24 hours away from killing himself.

Note: This post contains some initial thoughts I had after reading about the jury verdict on the lawsuit that the widow of Officer Marhafer brought against the medical staff at Saratoga Hospital. I am working on a longer, more detailed piece which I will post at a later date.

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