A University of Virginia doctor has been granted qualified immunity in a federal lawsuit brought by a woman who says the UVa Medical Center violated her rights when she was treated against her will after a suicide attempt.
On May 9, Judge Norman K. Moon dismissed the woman’s claims against Dr. Scott Syverud. On Thursday, he granted Syverud qualified immunity, which protects government officials and law enforcement who make reasonable decisions in the course of their jobs.
Moon wrote that while people have certain privacy rights, the woman’s suicide attempt gave law enforcement officials probable cause to put her in emergency custody and, once she was under state care, gave Syverud a reasonable justification to treat the patient despite her objections.
The initial lawsuit was filed in June and alleged a violation of rights and due process, as well as gross negligence, assault and battery and false imprisonment.
The case stems from the woman’s January 2018 attempt to kill herself by running a hose from her car’s exhaust pipe into her car. When she was found, a law enforcement officer obtained an emergency custody order and took her to the hospital.
She was able to make her own decisions throughout treatment, according to the initial lawsuit, and was unwilling as doctors and nurses took blood and urine samples, administered medication and restrained her.
She named Syverud, as well as Dr. Kathleen Root, nurses Adam Carter and Callie Bateman and UVa Health System CEO Pamela Sutton-Wallace in her suit. She also sued eight unidentified employees who, according to the suit, helped to restrain her.
On Thursday, Root, Carter and Bateman also requested qualified immunity. In the same filing, Sutton-Wallace asked for injunctive relief from a series of the woman’s demands, which would have asked Sutton-Wallace to require health care providers to inform the plaintiff of medications administered to her during any future visits to the hospital, receive consent before administering medication and not to use restraints to administer medication against her wishes.
In the filing, the defendants’ lawyers wrote that such an injunction would burden Sutton-Wallace’s ability to perform her duties and go against the court’s traditional deference to medical expertise.
In her initial suit, the woman also requested compensatory damages to be decided by a jury.