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Friday, November 7, 2008

Now He Has a Reason to Live

posted by on November 7 at 12:03 PM

A Seattle man is suing the city after, the man claims, police “illegally” sent him to a hospital for observation after he called a suicide hotline from the Aurora Bridge.

According the suit filed in King County Superior Court on November 6th, the man walked to the northeast side of the bridge around midnight on August 22nd and used an emergency phones to call a suicide-prevention hotline. The man told the operator he “just wanted to talk about some personal problems.”

The suit says twenty minutes later, SPD and Seattle Fire showed up and, man claims officers “illegally ordered [him] to get into [an] ambulance” and was taken to the UW Medical Center against his will.

The man does not have health insurance and says the city’s policy has left him with an $883 medical bill, “even though [he] did not need service at the time.”

“If somebody is exhibiting signs of suicidal tendencies or is depressed, our policy is typically to send them to the hospital for a mental evaluation,” says SPD spokesman Mark Jamieson.

In his suit, the man claims he “was totally able-bodied and the only problem I had was a debt of about $4,980 [in student loans]. The Seattle Police Department should have transported me or called a taxicab to transport me to the hospital.”

The man, who appears to be representing himself, is asking for a jury trial and wants the city to pay $500,000 for his medical bills and to “financially support [him] for life.” He is also asking the city to install 12 foot high iron bars along the bridge walkway to prevent future suicide attempts.

RSS icon Comments


Very interesting.

Posted by Non | November 7, 2008 12:06 PM

He's naive if he thinks $500,000 will support him for the rest of his life.

I understand his claim, though, I've been forced to ride in ambulances when all I required was a transport and been left with ridiculous amounts of debt to pay.

Posted by Carollani | November 7, 2008 12:14 PM

What? How about $883 to cover his medical expenses and money to cover his legal fees?

Opportunistic bastard.

Posted by keshmeshi | November 7, 2008 12:16 PM

Wow hes lucky my student loans are around 50K. But I guess I wont be heading to the Aurora bridge to sort things out.

Posted by the Uke | November 7, 2008 12:19 PM

Clearly, we need to open an office of Go Ahead and Kill Yourself.

Posted by David Wright | November 7, 2008 12:19 PM

In Seattle, ambulances transport people who require very little pre-hospital care. You almost always have the right to suggest alternate means of transportation or refuse ambulance transport.

However, if you're involuntarily committed or in police custody, you lose that right.

Ambulance rides in Seattle cost a lot of money. Rides in any Seattle fire medic unit are free.

The fire department EMTs and paramedics cannot force you to do anything.

Posted by six shooter | November 7, 2008 12:27 PM

hrm, remove the hotlines, guy would have jumped, Darwin for the win!

Posted by Wurm | November 7, 2008 12:27 PM

Wonderful. This is exactly how the city should be spending their money: paying for some whiny jagoff to be setup for life. Let's see how many nanoseconds it takes for the judge to throw this lawsuit off the proverbial Aurora Bridge.

Posted by jorb | November 7, 2008 12:31 PM

Wonderful. This is exactly how the city should be spending their money: paying for some whiny jagoff to be setup for life. Let's see how many nanoseconds it takes for the judge to throw this lawsuit off the proverbial Aurora Bridge.

Posted by jorb | November 7, 2008 12:35 PM

sticking him with a hospital bill for deciding to ask for help rather than jump seems... counterproductive.

don't jump! call us & worsen your debt load instead!

Posted by max solomon | November 7, 2008 12:38 PM

damn you, ultra-slow work internet!

Posted by jorb | November 7, 2008 12:41 PM

A typical ride in an ambulance is $750 or more. It's a total ripoff, but that's the way it is.

Posted by elswinger | November 7, 2008 12:41 PM

couldnt he call the suicide hotline from another location?

cops are not in the wrong here.

Posted by SeMe | November 7, 2008 12:41 PM

It isn't just a "suicide prevention hotline" it is the Crisis Clinic! It is the only one in King County, and they deal with a lot more than just suicide calls. Please show some respect for the oldest crisis line in the country and refer to this important Seattle institution by name.

Posted by Crisis Clinic | November 7, 2008 12:41 PM

He could have refused treatment. He was probably told to get in, did it, got a bill and now regrets it. If he truly doesn't have the means to pay, there is a sliding scale or low income payment plan he can enter into. If he's just trying to dodge his bill - lame. Suing, ever lamer.

Last time I went to the ER, I flagged a cab (which is really easy in my neighborhood). According to a friend that's an EMT, rides can run about $2,000 here.

Posted by Dougsf | November 7, 2008 12:55 PM

punitive damages should be abolished in cases where the person lives and isn't horribly deformed or disabled.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | November 7, 2008 12:57 PM

Didn't Ted Bundy work at the Crisis Clinic in the 70's?

Posted by itsmarkmitchell | November 7, 2008 12:59 PM

Is it possible that with i-1000 recently passed we can work on a solution for him?

Posted by Todd | November 7, 2008 1:10 PM

I wonder how many people commit suicide over high medical bills?

Mind you, if I was a cop, I'd have done the same thing as they did.

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 7, 2008 1:14 PM

The cost of emergency transport really isn't that unreasonable if you factor in all of the elements involved. In Seattle EMS personel are required to be fully qualified fire-fighters before taking passing extensive emergency medical training. They are pretty much equivalent to an ER nurse in skill with fire-fighting abilities tacked on. The EMS aid-car is a rolling ICU. On the other hand, the drivers who do stable patient transfers in the less-equiped ambulance have med-tech certification and are equivalent to ER medical assistants.

If you call 911 they have to dispatch EMS which in Seattle involves the police, EMS and at least one fire truck. The fire truck comes in case doors need to be broken open to get to the victim and there are more of them so they are the first responders. After arrival, the EMS team evalutes the patient for acuity of need. If the patient has life-threatening condition or is very unstable he/she is transported via EMS. If EMS stablizes the patient or deems them stable at the scene they call in the aid car for transport. This system keeps the EMS teams more free to respond to multiple calls without bogging them down in routine patient transfer. Thus constituted the system is expensive to operate but of a such high quality Seattle is routinely used as the model for other cities wishing to improve their systems.

That said, there are very many people who abuse the system for a variety of reasons.

Posted by inkweary | November 7, 2008 1:31 PM

Punitive damages keep companies from just writing off lawsuits as just a cost of doing business. I'm not defending this boob's case, which will be heard (and denied) in a court, but to say that punitive damages should be eliminated is ridiculous. "Deformed or disabled" isn't what punitive damages are for; they are PUNITIVE -- punishment. Deformed or disabled would be a different kind of compensation.

Posted by Fnarf | November 7, 2008 1:35 PM

Can I counter-sue this guy for illegally wasting my time and hard-earned tax money on a dodgey "suicide scam"?

Posted by COMTE | November 7, 2008 1:44 PM

As I have stated earlier, people who kill themselves (or, apparently *try* to) are DICKS.

Dude is a fucking dick.

Posted by Original Monique | November 7, 2008 1:53 PM

He should sue God for making him an idiot.

Posted by Mr. Poe | November 7, 2008 2:23 PM

Fnarf, couldn't the punitive damages problem be solved by not giving money to the plaintiff, but just taking it and returning it to the treasury (effectively the same as burning cash)?

Posted by Q*bert H. Humphrey | November 7, 2008 2:43 PM

He's an asshole, apparently.

Posted by Schmacky | November 7, 2008 3:42 PM

Why he can't just be happy with asking the city to reimburse him for the 883 dollar medical bill or writing it off? Why be a greedy bastard?

I hate frivolous lawsuits.

Posted by Brian in Seattle | November 7, 2008 4:17 PM

I've had quite a bit of experience with this question.

The Fire Department cannot force you to do anything. However, the police department can. The transport in the ambulance is called an "IVT" or InVoluntary Transport. This is used then the patient cannot be trusted to make judgements in their own best interests.

A good example of a person who might not be thinking clearly is one who walks to the Aurora Bridge and then uses the emergency phone to try to chat with someone about his student loans.

This is crap. Any time you say ANYTHING about self-harm to Emergency Services personel, you can expect to end up at a hospital. The idea is that field personnel do not have the training to evaluate the mental fitness of the individual in question. Should they, in fact, let someone go - someone who later kills themselves, they would be liable for that death.

What the hell were they supposed to do in this circumstance? Let the guy who used the suicide phone go free to wander around the Aurora Bridge some more to see if he came up with any better ideas?

Ambulances are expensive because no-one in this country has health insurance. Fewer than 30% of the people in Harborview's ER have any insurance at all. Just think about how much more expensive a burrito at Taco Del Mar would be if 70% of their customers walked out without paying - and then factor in the occassional customer who just randomly sues them for a few million. You'd probably end up with a pretty fucking expensive burrito.

This guy was an idiot, and on paper this is a classic cry for help. Debt is a classic trigger for suicidal ideation.

What the fuck ever.

Posted by John Galt | November 8, 2008 3:47 AM

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