Docs Made the Wrong Call, Grieving Dad Says

     (CN) – A psychotic New Yorker beat his mother to death while hallucinating that he was being attacked by demons, the father claims in a lawsuit against the hospital that released the patient into his mother’s custody despite evident homicidal tendencies.
     Carol Butler took her son, Ian Butler, to the Cayuga Medical Center in upstate New York to be treated for hallucinations and nausea in September 2009.
     Attending physician Eva Briggs noted that Ian suffered from confusion, impaired vision and hearing, and an unsteady gait, and that he had a history of psychotic episodes, epilepsy, and seizures, according to the complaint in Tompkins County Court.
     Briggs also allegedly learned from the mother that Ian was not taking his medication. The son’s medical records, which the hospital could access, also “disclosed that Ian Butler had been hospitalized at defendant Cayuga Medical Center from Aug. 3, 2007 through Aug. 9, 2007, where he had presented with ‘psychosis as evidenced by delusions and hallucinations, impaired judgment, suicidal and homicidal ideation,’ and his risk factors included suicide or violence, including killing a family member.”
     But still, the hospital “never disclosed at any time whatsoever to Carol Butler, or to any other members of Ian Butler’s family, that Ian Butler had homicidal ideation towards his family members during his prior episode of psychosis,” according to the complaint.
     After diagnosing Ian with psychosis and an intracranial bleeding, Briggs referred him to Cayuga Emergency Physicians for further treatment, the complaint states.
     When Ian refused to be transported by ambulance, however, the hospital let him sign a release, according to the complaint.
     Ian’s father, John Butler, says the hospital allowed this, even though Ian was hallucinating and incapable of authorizing such a release.
     “As a result of the foregoing, Carol Butler transported Ian Butler to the defendant hospital’s emergency department, unaware that Ian Butler was capable of having homicidal ideation towards family members during an episode of psychosis,” the complaint states.
     Butler says the emergency room triaged Ian and performed a safety screen, in which Ian revealed that he suffered from hallucinations, that “he did not feel emotionally and physically safe,” and that he was depressed over his break up with his girlfriend.
     “At said time, the emergency department failed to conduct a lethality risk screen of Ian Butler, notwithstanding that he had responded that he did not feel emotionally and physically safe, and that the defendants knew that he had suicidal and homicidal ideation during a prior episode of psychosis,” Butler says.
     Despite the severity of Ian’s mental condition, the hospital sent Ian and his mother back to the waiting room and let them wait for almost five hours.
     Tired of waiting in the emergency room, Carol Butler took Ian home for the night, according to the complaint.
     Butler says the hospital never checked on Carol’s safety or Ian’s condition, and failed to warn Carol her son could be a danger to himself or family members.
     “On or about Sept. 23, 2009, at about 2:00 a.m., hallucinating that he was being attacked by demons, Ian Butler struck back physically at the perceived demons, whereupon he unknowingly beat Carol Butler to death in her home in the mistaken belief that she was a demon,” the complaint states.
     It adds that Ian woke his younger brother, Joseph, who was also in the home, and “forced him to pray in an attempt to resurrect the body of Carol Butler.”
     After Joseph called the police, Ian Butler was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. He was later found not guilty by reason of insanity and was committed to a psychiatric facility, according to the complaint.
     Butler says “the defendants knew, or should have known, that Ian Butler was suffering from a severe episode of psychosis, which required immediate medical attention, treatment and care for the safety of Ian Butler and all other individuals within proximity of Ian Butler, including, but not limited to, Carol Butler.” (82)
     The widowed father seeks damages for medical malpractice, negligence and wrongful death against the Cayuga Medical Center, Cayuga Emergency Physicians, Dr. Briggs M.D., Dr. Drew Koch and Dr. Michael Torres in Tompkins County Court. He is represented by Thomas Cramer with Thaler & Thaler of Ithaca.

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