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News Media Quote Professor Barry Furrow on Hospital Liability for Discharged Patient’s Crime

Professor Barry Furrow directs the Health Law program

April 06, 2018

The Associated Press turned to Professor Barry Furrow for insights on a lawsuit that seeks to hold a Boston hospital liable for discharging a mentally ill patient who fatally stabbed a neighbor three weeks after leaving the facility.  

The family of a 72-year-old woman killed in 2012 by her schizophrenic neighbor has filed a suit against Carney Hospital, claiming it should not have released a patient who had been civilly committed to the hospital for up to six months just 11 days after his admission.   

While Massachusetts, like most states, protects mental health professionals from liability in such cases, the article notes that commonwealth law is silent on the question of hospitals’ responsibility.

Hospitals are not vulnerable to such claims in many states, Furrow said.

“These cases are just so thorny because you don’t want to put a burden on providers to over-commit,” Furrow said. “I’m very sympathetic to the family, but the law is very much shaped to place the heavier burden on someone who wants to keep someone institutionalized.”

Furrow, the director of the Health Law program, has expertise in an array of health-related topics including patient safety, patient privacy, mental health and provider accountability.

The April 5 AP story was picked up in outlets including ABC News in Boston, WSB Radio in Atlanta and The Journal Record in Oklahoma City.