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Autistic teen died in psychiatric hospital due to staff's conduct

When the parents of a 19-year-old autistic man checked their son in for psychiatric care, they probably expected his outbursts to be met with compassion -- not a lethal choke hold.

Unfortunately, Laurel Heights, a Georgia psychiatric facility, already had a reputation for mistreating its patients.

The parents of the autistic teen were unaware of the facility's previous issues. One incident includes a young girl who was left unsupervised while showering. She ended up being scalded with boiling hot water. Another incident included a pre-teen boy. After being assaulted sexually by another patient, he was told to simply go to his room and get back in bed when he tried to report it. The facility had also been cited for using unnecessary restraints on patients and more.

In the case of the 19-year-old, several experts have reviewed the videotaped evidence of the altercation that led to the young man's death and said that the death was entirely preventable. Staff members acted in a way that only served to make the situation worse.

A properly trained staff would have de-escalated the outburst by the mentally ill young man. Instead, they resorted to violence and ended up holding the teenager down in a way that cut off his ability to breathe. Their method of restraint included having a staff member straddle the teen and sit on his back while he was forced face down onto the ground. By the time staff members realized the teen was no longer fighting, he'd died of suffocation.

As a result of the death, one employee has been fired and two others suspended. The teenager's parents have filed a wrongful death claim against the facility, alleging that improper training led the staff to act as they did. In addition, medical negligence led to his death in other ways -- including the failure to attempt CPR after the staff realized he'd stopped breathing.

Cases like this illustrate the need to carefully investigate any potential wrongdoing by the caregivers you trust to watch over your loved ones.

Source: www,, "Family suing over teen son's death in psychiatric hospital," Christopher Hopper, Dec. 16, 2017

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