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Hospitals must stop patients taking their own lives, Supreme Court rules

Hospitals must stop patients taking their own lives, Supreme Court rules
8th February 2012

The Supreme Court has ruled that hospitals must take appropriate steps to prevent voluntary mental health patients from taking their own lives.

Cited as a landmark judgement, the ruling was the result of a charge against the Pennine Care NHS Trust.

It was held that the trust had violated article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to prevent Melanie Rabone taking her own life in 2005, despite having a duty to do so.

To prove that the Trust breached their duty of care it had to be determined that whatever a doctor did or did not do fell below the standard of a reasonably competent doctor in that field.

Ms Rabone was admitted to hospital following a suicide attempt and was undergoing treatment for severe depression.

On her file there was a note that if she tried to leave she should be assessed under the Mental Health Act to detain her. Despite this, she was allowed to leave the ward and took her own life.

Pennine Care NHS Trust acknowledged it had been negligent but denied that it had a direct, positive duty to protect her.

However, the Supreme Court ruled against the Trust, meaning that all hospitals must now take steps to protect the lives of voluntary patients.

Read about support and personalised care at Barchester care homes for anyone with mental health concerns.