Suffocation Death in South Carolina Mental Health Hospital

Accident Lawyers in Columbia, Myrtle Beach, Kingstree and Marion, South Carolina

Statue of the Lady Justice holding the scales of justiceThe attorneys at Whetstone Perkins & Fulda are passionate about pursuing justice for victims of negligence in South Carolina. A recent fatal incident involving a 35-year-old man and the state Department of Mental Health illustrates just how deadly and dangerous healthcare negligence can be.

William Avant's Death Ruled a Homicide

Mr. Avant was a patient of the state Department of Mental Health and had been for over 12 years. He had the chromosomal disorder known as Klinefelter syndrome, which is associated with depression, anxiety, learning disabilities and impulsivity. He died, suffocating at the bottom of a dogpile of mental health workers, on January 22 of this year. A probe by state health regulators found that the employees were in violation of rules regarding how and how not to physically restrain a patient. The probe also found some of the employees were not properly trained, according to The State.

It appears Mr. Avant was distraught and kicking a glass partition at the Bryan Psychiatric Facility in Columbia. Several minutes passed, during which time hospital staff were seen speaking to Avant. He eventually walks past staff and appears to be trying to get into a medication room, at which point he is surrounded by staffers and pinned to the ground.

The Richland County Coroner ruled Avant's death a homicide. The staffers had placed Avant in a prone, face-down position on the floor, and pinned him down by laying across his back for several minutes. These actions prevented his diaphragm from expanding, so he couldn't breathe. These restraint methods are explicitly prohibited in the department's training manual. In fact, they are prohibited in red, all-caps writing in the manual. The County Coroner concluded that Mr. Avant died as a direct result of the staffers' actions. We are currently representing his family.

Please see the entirety of Mr. Avant's story in the Greenville News.

"What is Medical Negligence?"

Negligence is carelessness. It is a violation of the duties of care owed to you by your doctor, nurses, nursing home staff, etc. Here are a few examples of negligence in a healthcare setting:

  • Medication errors, such as wrong dosage or wrong medication administered
  • Surgical errors during an operation, such as wrong-side surgery
  • Birth injuries caused during labor and delivery
  • Wrong diagnosis or delayed diagnosis
  • Improper restraint
  • Wrongful imprisonment of a nursing home resident
  • Neglect of a patient

It's not just hospital settings and the diagnostic process where these negligent mistakes can occur. It's also long-term care facilities, nursing homes, and inpatient mental health hospitals like the one Mr. Avant was a patient of for more than a decade.

What To Do If You Suspect Medical Negligence

No one wants to contemplate the injury or death of a family member at the hands of healthcare workers. Tragically, instances of medical negligence are not uncommon. While the vast majority of health workers in America are hard-working, dedicated, skilled individuals, there is a minority that acts carelessly from time to time. Unfortunately, carelessness and negligence in the health profession can be fatal.

The experienced injury attorneys at Whetstone Perkins & Fulda are here to help you decide what to do next. Your case evaluation is complimentary and risk-free. Please call us at 803-799-9400 for your consultation. Whetstone Perkins & Fulda has multiple office locations to better serve our region, in Myrtle Beach, Columbia, Kingstree and Marion.