State-Employed Physicians Can Be Sued for Errors

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The Illinois Supreme Court said Thursday a Chicago woman whose husband killed himself may sue the state-employed psychiatrist and counselor who declined to hospitalize him.

George Jinkins shot himself to death in June 1996. The previous night a hospital declared he should be involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility, but a psychiatrist and counselor at the John J. Madden Mental Health Center in Hines said Jinkins did not need hospitalization and sent him home.

Jinkins’ family lawyer, Marvin Brustin of Chicago, says the ruling means state-employed physicians will be held to the same standards as private doctors.

Justices decreed unanimously that the state employees should be held to professional regulations and not be protected by a legal doctrine that bars states from lawsuits without their consent.