Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter for the Nursing Profession (6)11 Nov 98

Quick Summary: The court ruled the nurses were negligent for leaving a heavily-sedated female patient alone and unattended in an unlocked room accessible to male psychiatric patients.

   A female patient was admitted to a state psychiatric hospital during the early morning hours.

   She became agitated, combative and delusional during her initial examination. A staff member escorted her to a time-out or "change of environment" room and stayed with her until she could be seen by a physician.

   The physician ordered a sedative, which was given to her by the nurses. When she fell asleep, the patient was left alone and unattended.

   According to the Court of Appeals of Texas, the room where the heavily-sedated female patient was placed was located on the men’s side of the unit. The door was left unlocked and the room was accessible to entry from the men’s hallway. The patient was raped during the night by a male patient. She had the right to sue the two nurses and the State of Texas.  Laman v. Big Spring State Hospital, 970 S.W. 2d 670 (Tex. App., 1998).