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Causation in Deceased Suicide Attempt and Subsequent Medical Malpractice Discussed by NY Appellate Court

The defendant was indicted for Murder in the Second Degree and other related crimes. During this nonjury trial, the issue of causation of death was presented to this Court. The defense alleged that the victim had recovered from the gunshot wound he suffered and actually committed suicide by refusing nourishment and medical treatment.

A Bronx County Injury lawyer said that on October 17, 1991, the victim suffered a gunshot wound to his head while driving a cab in Bronx County. He was removed to Lincoln Hospital where he was diagnosed with a gunshot wound to the neck with transection of the right internal carotid artery and facial nerve paralysis. The victim contracted pneumonia which was treated and eventually cured. Since the victim continued to have difficulty speaking and swallowing a month after his admission, testing was performed but revealed no significant personal injury.

The victim communicated by writing on a note pad and nodding in response to questions. He was interviewed in this manner by Detectives concerning the incident. The victim commenced and participated in rehabilitation for speaking, swallowing and walking at a Hospital on November 13, 1991.

On December 4, 1991 the victim improved sufficiently to permit his transfer to another Hospital for further rehabilitation. On admission he was found, among other diagnosis, to be unable to swallow and to require feeding by tube. The victim became depressed and distraught at his slow accident progress. On December 19, 1991, the victim pulled out his feeding tube and refused its reinsertion even after being advised of its vital necessity.

Although the victim expressed a desire to return to regular food, he did not eat any when it was provided to him. He ingested only ice water and liquids.

On December 27, 1991, an autopsy was performed. The external examination revealed a severely emaciated body with almost a completed absence of subcutaneous body fat and atrophy of the skeletal muscles. The Medical Examiner found that the victim suffered a gunshot wound to the head and neck with a line of metallic fragments in the wound’s path between the right ear and left cheek.

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