London

'Wanton and reckless disregard': Woman's family sues London hospital, doctors

Jenepher Watt, 20, died after living with mental illness and visiting the LHSC several times before her death

Jenepher Watt

The family of Jenepher Watt, a young woman who struggled with mental illness, is suing the London Health Sciences Centre and the doctors and nurses involved in her care. (Facebook)

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In the last eleven days of Jenepher Watt's life, she tried to kill herself three times.

The 20 year-old was rushed to the hospital three times, and discharged each time. 

Now, the London woman's family is suing the London Health Sciences Centre and the doctors and nurses involved in her care. 

"Jenepher spoke out herself when she was able about trying to get better care and processes for people with mental health issues and her mom wants to continue with that purpose in the hopes that nothing like this will happen again," said Mary Grosso, the lawyer representing Jenepher Watt's mother and sister. 

The statements in the lawsuit have not been tested in court. Statements of defence have not been filed, but lawyers for doctors, nurses and the hospital have filed papers with the court stating their intent to defend.

A dozen doctors named in lawsuit

The lawsuit names 12 doctors, as well as unnamed doctors and nurses and other staff, who handled Watt's care from March 18, 2015 until June 8, 2015. 

The level of care Jenepher Watt got fell below the reasonable treatment, Grosso said.

"If the doctors, nurses and/or staff at LHSC had taken reasonable steps to keep Jenepher safe, to properly monitor her, to stabilize and treat her in a timely way ... Jenepher would not have reached a medical state which caused her to take her own life," states the lawsuit, which is seeking $450,000 in damages. 

Watt's plight was well known to Londoners. Her story appeared in The London Free Press after she would call the newspaper to detail overcrowding and lack of adequate care for the mentally ill. 

Watt had a mood disorder, borderline personality disorder, depression and anxiety, the lawsuit claims. 

Her condition started to deteriorate around March 18 of that year after a period of stability. 

Over the next three months, she was in and out of hospital and tried to end her life several times. 

'Wanton and reckless disregard'

The lawsuit details Jenepher's numerous encounters with doctors, who discharged her, and her mother's battle to keep her admitted. 

The doctors, nurses and hospital were negligent in their care and treatment of Watt, the lawsuit claims. 

'The conduct of the defendants constitutes a wanton and reckless disregard for the safety of (Jenepher Watt).'​ - Statement of Claim

The hospital didn't provide a proper standard of care, exercise "reasonable skill" in her treatment, or recognize the signs and symptoms that indicated she would end her life, the documents state. 

The doctors and nurses didn't follow proper procedures, order appropriate tests, seek medical history or order appropriate follow-up, according to the lawsuit. 

"They knew or ought to have known there existed a high degree of risk of suicide and failed to take adequate measures to ensure Jenepher's safety," the lawsuit alleges. 

"The conduct of the defendants constitutes a wanton and reckless disregard for the safety of (Watt)," according to court documents. ​


Timeline:

This timeline is constructed from the statement of claim filed with the court. It has not been tested in court. 

 March 18, 2015

Watt goes to the ER at LHSC because she was feeling suicidal. Two doctors say she should be admitted but abandoned that process the same day. Released without treatment. 

May 25 

Watt calls her mother in distress, who calls London police. Jenepher Watt is found near-comatose behind a variety store. She had taken an overdose of medication. 

2:39 a.m. Watt is admitted to the ER and seen by a doctor. 

11 a.m. She is assessed, appears drowsy. Watt says she wants to be discharged. 

1:55 p.m. Watt is discharged. Within two hours, her mother sees her deteriorating. She is incoherent and begins hallucinating, is aggressive and agitated. 

4:30 p.m. She is readmitted and stays in the ER overnight. 

May 26  

Watt is assessed by a psychiatrist. Watt tells the doctor she doesn't want to have mental health support any more, that she is angry with her mother. 

2:56 p.m. Watt is discharged. 

May 30

1:55 p.m. Watt returns to the ER after two suicide attempts. She denies further thoughts of suicide. 

4:32 p.m. Watt is discharged with no changes or additions to her treatment. A resident said he would contact a psychiatrist about Watt's status to request an earlier appointment than the one she had scheduled for on June 30. This was not done, according to court documents. 

June 1

Watt's mother calls the psychiatrist to request an earlier appointment and learns the doctors didn't now about Watt's status and numerous admissions and discharges from the LHSC. An appointment is scheduled for June 16. 

June 8 Jenepher Watt takes her own life. 

May 29, 2017 

Jenepher Watt's mother and sister file a lawsuit against the London Health Sciences Centre and the doctors and nurses who treated her.


WHO TO CONTACT

If you are in distress, there is help. 

24/7 Reach Out Line: 519-433-2023 or 1-866-933-2023

The Support Line (24/7 friendly listening line): 519-601-2055 or 1-844-360-8055

24-hour walk-in Crisis Centre: 648 Huron Street. 

Mind Your Mind

Kids Help Line: 1-800-668-6868