Judge awards $5 million in damages in VA medical malpractice case

By Gabriel Neves | Oct 15, 2018

A widow brought the lawsuit after the suicide of her husband.  

BENTON –– A federal judge awarded more than $5 million to the descendants of a Marion man who died after leaving a Veterans Affairs hospital.

Judge David Herndon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois issued a 30-page ruling on Oct. 4 in the lawsuit filed by Michele Barr, widow of Donald Barr, against the United States.

Michele Barr sued the government for medical malpractice for not properly treating Donald Barr's conditions, which led him to commit suicide after being discharged from the hospital.

According to court documents, Donald Barr went to the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Marion and requested to talk to someone. Collette Smith, clinical care coordinator, concluded the man was at high risk for suicide and made transportation arrangements to take him to the emergency room. 

Donald Bar was diagnosed with "adjustment disorder with mxed emotional and behavioral features in a veteran, combined with generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)," according to the court documents. 

Following the diagnosis, he was transferred to the Jefferson Barracks VA Medical Center, where he was examined by a psychiatrist. Dr. Peter Fahnestock allegedly found Donald Barr did not have suicidal tendancies and discharged him. 

Two days later, Donald Barr committed suicide by hanging.

In his ruling, Herndon wrote, "Dr. Fahnestock did not investigate or even prepare the decedent’s family for his return home or investigate whether his patient’s greatest fear, and precipitating cause of his suicidal plans, was rationally based."

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois Case number 3:15-cv-01329-DRH-RJD

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