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When Treatment Turns Deadly

Deciding to enter a substance abuse rehabilitation program is no small feat. It takes courage, determination and strength to face your addictions head on and fight for your life. Every day, thousands of people make the decision to enter rehab centers with the expectation that the staff will properly care for them and provide excellent services. While this is usually the case, there are instances when staff behaviors lead to patient injuries, or even death.

Incidents in the News

Forbes recently reported about an incident that occurred in a Los Angeles area rehabilitation center. California prosecutors unsealed an indictment that lists charges against the rehabilitation clinic, its founder, a current employee and three former employees. The charges stem from the death of a 53-year-old Arizona man who entered the center for assistance with addiction. The client reportedly had numerous health complications, including pulmonary disease and emphysema. He was also recovering from a recent bout of pneumonia.

As stated in the indictment, his oxygen tank was emptied before he boarded the plane. Upon his arrival at the facility, the staff allegedly failed to provide him with more oxygen and administered medications to him. Staff members also reportedly failed to check on his well-being during the night and the client died the following day. The state prosecutor asserts that the staff’s behavior amounted to murder.

According to the Forbes article, this is only one of four deaths that have occurred at this particular facility, which was investigated by the 2012 California Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes. Additionally, the center is named in two wrongful death lawsuits, stemming from the suicides of two clients. One was found dead inside of a treatment facility. Her family claims that management prevented staff members from calling emergency services for the woman, even though she was exhibiting dangerous and erratic behavior. The other suicide reportedly occurred when a client left the clinic in the middle of the night. Despite being alerted to the situation, staff members allegedly made no efforts to locate him or ensure his safety. The next morning, he was found hanging from a bridge.

A Standard of Care

The owners, management and staff of a rehabilitation center have a legal duty to promote the safety and well-being of their clients. When this duty is broken by any obligated party, injuries can ensue. One of the most common injuries is assault. This can occur from staff member to patient or between patients. These centers often employ large males to restrain difficult clients and contain potentially dangerous situations. When these employees act in an unreasonable manner, they can injure a patient. Additionally, when violent disputes occur between patients, staff members have an obligation to diffuse the situation and take reasonable measures to ensure everyone’s safety.

If you or someone you love was the victim of a crime or negligent behavior while in treatment for substance abuse, our West Palm Beach personal injury attorneys at Gary Roberts & Associates, P.A. are here to help. Call the office or contact us today for a free and confidential consultation of your case.

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