All posts by Michael

Department of Defense Suicide Prevention a Worthwhile Cause

U.S. Supreme Court
Lawyer at the high court.

There is no one that suffers more in defense of freedom than our brave active-duty military personnel and veterans. Each one has their story to tell and their burdens to bear. In the long history of American liberty, our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have represented every walk of life. Also, they have shown the best of the country.

With the issues related to training, war, and separation of families, it is vital that emotional issues caused by their time in the service get addressed. Moreover, there have been wonderful charities and other organizations formed to help those that have given their country all. Hence, while these efforts are noble and often useful, they need more of a partner.

DOD To Work Harder at Mental Health Promotion

The Department of Defense announced that it would be working harder to promote mental health among active duty military and vets. However, their suicide prevention initiative highlights many of the struggles that our brave men and women in uniform have to face every day. Hence, there was an emphasis that September is Suicide Prevention Month. The Veterans Crisis Line is 1-800-273-8255.

Ways You Can Help Suicidal Vets

There are many avenues to supporting our vets, and Ehline Law Firm PC, supports them. Headed by a physically challenged former Marine, we know the ideals of life in the military and the concept of service above self. Our lead attorney, Michael Ehline, used the discipline and skills taught in the Marine Corps to create another life as a lawyer. This determination has given him the drive to help others, especially other veterans.

So he hopes that this worthwhile endeavor of the Department of Defense will contribute to remind everyone of the real 1%. That is, the 1% that put their lives on the line every day to make sure that we are free. Most of all, please consider volunteering with veterans groups. But offering any help that you can, even a keen ear helps.

New Study Indicates High Risk of Suicide Among Teens Using SSRI Antidepressants

Suicide off a building
Dead man jumping

Could this be the next new cottage industry personal injury case? Use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, has increased dramatically over the last twenty years. Primarily used to treat symptoms of depression, this type of drug has also been found to increase suicidal thoughts and other side effects. Among the most popular drugs in this category are Prozac, Celexa, Zoloft, and Lexapro. Recent findings have shown a substantial previously less-well understood risk for teenagers and pregnant women who are considering the drugs. recently reported on the connection between SSRI medication and suicide rates among teens. The Sydney Morning Herald cites a study conducted by an Australian psychiatrist. In the survey, it was discovered that in 13 of 14 different antidepressants, use of the drugs were more harmful to teens than using nothing at all. Altogether a series of clinical trials were utilized, with over 5,000 patients.

The medication venlafaxine, marketed as Efexor has been noted for the increased risk of suicide among patients. There is also significant concern that other drugs, including paroxetine, sertraline, and citalopram may all cause more harm than previously indicated. Even one of the most popular antidepressants that was found to create a lower risk among teens, fluoxetine (Prozac), still had a lower efficacy in reducing depression than previously believed.

The researchers noted that use of antidepressant medication jumped 16% between 2009 and 2012. Medical professionals also warn against abruptly stopping use of such drugs, instead doing so over time. This dovetails with the published finding in the Harvard Health journal in May 2016.

The study found that over 15% of pregnant women were taking antidepressants. Furthermore, the effects of SSRIs on the developing fetus are still not fully known. Considering that SSRIs were four of the top five antidepressants prescribed to pregnant women there was also reduced room for error. There is now more concern about the effect of these drugs on both the fetus and the expecting mother.

For more information or if you believe that you or a loved one has been affected by side effects from these drugs, please contact medical malpractice and prescription drug liability expert Michael Ehline today. Ehline Law has years of experience dealing with the large medical corporations that push these drugs with little regard for the long term effects on patients. Call them at (213) 596-9642.

Mork from Ork and Suicide Avoidance

Suicide off a building
Dead man jumping

In August of last year, nearly every news outlet had an article or slideshow speculating on the cause of beloved comedian Robin Williams’ suicide. Many of these pieces were based on sheer speculation and hearsay rather than medical evidence and testimony from those around him. With a little more than a year since the event, a more clear-eyed view is taking shape regarding his death.

Williams’ widow, Susan Williams, has began to open up about the event. She stated to Good Morning America that she does not believe that the death was caused by depression, or even due to his diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. Instead Mrs. Williams places much of the blame behind Lewy Body Dementia, which has been called the most common disease that readers do not know by name.

Salon compiled information about Susan Williams’ interviews and her assertions. She witnessed Robin devolve into a nervous, worried wreck as the family tried to determine what was wrong. She now believes that he would have had less than three years to live if he had not killed himself.

Williams’ widow does not discount that the disease made him depressed, but stated that it was one of many factors that led to his decision. She believed that part of the reason that he went through with it was the idea of reasserting control in a very difficult situation. Lewy Body Dementia is estimated to affect nearly one half of one percent of the American population.

The disease causes body tremors, rigid muscles, and severe hallucinations. The exact cause of the disease is still unknown but it appears that it could be related to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases– the latter of which Williams had been diagnosed with.

It is unclear what Susan Williams can do to help reduce the strain of her husband’s death. However, it appears that she has become an advocate for recognition of the disease that killed her husband, making sure that families that are going through the same struggle know that they are not alone. This is also an opportunity for prospective sufferers to visit their doctors to get the most accurate diagnosis possible and a chance for medical science to focus on this horrible affliction.

Gun Rights and Reducing Suicide

The State Gets into the Suicide Business
Taking your own life

We pay great attention to the homicide cases that take place every year and lament the happenings while hoping for humans to regain their humanity. However, we continue to forget about suicide cases in all this, especially when it comes to all those returning war vets who are to proud, or too scared to seek counseling for fear their Second Amendment rights will be forsaken by an executive branch that placed them on the DHS Terrorist Watch list.

Suicide cases, and not just those involving vets, have been on the rise in past several years and currently there are 3 times more people dying with suicides in America than are dying from homicide. Even breast cancer deaths are nothing compared to the number of people taking away their lives with their own hands. This is a point to ponder and some people are determined to break the trend.

The Propaganda and the Real Issues

Progressive liberals are famous for using suicide statistics in their “gun violence” propaganda to boost their arguments in favor of banning and curtailing firearms acquisition for law abiding citizens. Yet at the same time, the left has led the fight for making assisted suicide legal. But what about preventing suicide and getting this outside of the propaganda? You can OD on pills easier than trying to buy a gun anyways right?

Recently, NPR did a great report on a worthy goal of eliminating all suicides, and mentioned the comments of the head of the National Institute of Mental Health, Dr. Thomas Insel. He got ready to retire from his job while stating the increasing number of suicides as his greatest regrets. It is quite shocking for him and for every American that suicide rates have been rising in the region while homicide rates are declining for more than 2 decades now.

Insel could not take this, according to the story, and he decided to step down from his job. Even more disappointing is the fact that these death by your own hand rates have increased despite great efforts within the country such as awareness programs, midnight walks, dedicated hotlines etc., and even the very efforts of our team here at SOS. Looking at the statistics we find out that in 2013 there were 12.6 people committing suicide out of 100,000 whereas the figure was at 10.8 in 2003. Children are not immune from these figures either.

  • Direct Correlation Between Treating Depression and Reducing Death at Own Hands?

Henry Ford Health System, started 2001, is the only system that has gained some success in reducing the number of suicides by offering hope and focusing on the treatment of depression. They have designed a very specific, strict and defined system to prevent people from committing suicide and hope, confidence and persistence are the key ingredients in the success of their program. Their efforts have given a new life to a female named Lynn.

Lynn suffers from bipolar disorder that is also referred to as manic depressive illness. Just a little over 50 years of age, Lynn has lived with this disorder for 3 decades. A little more than 10 years ago she kept on feeling like taking her life. It all occurred to her in deep phases of depression that suddenly engulfed her mental abilities. She describes her feelings as going into a black hole and attempting to grab a hold of something to stay out of this hole.

When there was nothing for her to get support from, she felt like committing suicide and that sensation crossed her mind almost every month. When Lynn was given help the Henry Ford program was not the best at the time. It was going on with the same conventional approach of helping patients when they walked into the premises of institutions and informed about their conditions.

  • The Treatment Improvement and the Results

Some experts in the organization felt the need of coming up with a better program and in an effort to make this program a reality they tried to help 200,000 patients through an application for a grant to support the program. This program was dubbed “perfect depression care”. The grant was not given.

The health system put faith in the program and gave it a go. With this green signal a program was started that was one of the most thorough and intensive program. Patients are asked two questions in the beginning about the number of down moments in past two weeks and happy moments during that time. Depending on the answers given by the patient the doctors proceed to further questions regarding sleep disturbances and other related matters.

After proper diagnosis the patient is sent for the right therapy and methods that can be applied on him/her. Therapists would get in touch with the families and ask them to get rid of any items that can be used as weapons to kill or make them impossible to reach for the patient Doctors would always book patients for next appointments before they leave the premises of the clinic.

Lynn was provided care through notes that were present by her nightstand and kitchen. The notes contained instructions on how she could tackle her depression when she was having the feeling of going into a black hole again. She is also reminded of the fact that just like many times before her condition will become normal again.

Doree Ann Espiritu, serving Henry Ford as the head of Zero Suicide program, said that the previous practice included doctors reaching a mutual contract with patients where patients could not commit suicide i.e. break the contract.  (Check out the “Toolkit” here.) According to her this method was not very successful. The therapists at Henry Ford have been given more flexibility on the type of questions they can ask.

Previously, the therapists could not discuss suicidal thoughts of the patients with them or ask them about any materials that could be used for killing. It was thought that such questions could give patients hints of committing suicide. Henry Ford therapists are free to ask such questions from their patients now. Lynn said that the only reason she was able to fight with her fears and depression was due to the persistence that her therapists showed towards her.

She also gave credit to herself because she thinks she was quite persistent too. Lynn recalls and admires one particular therapist who did not stop telling her that there was hope and that she could be helped when she was completely thinking of the negative thoughts.

The approach taken by Henry Ford is finally getting some recognition. Many visitors from different parts of the US and Europe have come to the site to observe the program and how it works. Group Health Cooperative and The Suicide Prevention Resource Center have adopted the program from Henry Ford and have implemented in their clinics. Centerstone is another behavioral health provider organization that has put trust in the program and methods of Henry Ford.

Espiritu entered Henry Ford at quite a twist. She became part of it when the new strategies and program were being implemented or were in the phase of being discussed before implementation.
She talks about the time when the initial meetings were held and most of the people were still wondering how this could be done.

Getting Suicide to Zero?

Everyone was thinking about the possibility of bringing down the suicide rate to zero according to the NPR story. Most of the people in the anti suicide meetings thought it was impossible to bring the number down to zero but there were some who were ready to try. After doing all the discussions during meetings and mostly getting pessimistic response from the people that were going to be involved in the program, the system was given a start and results could be seen abruptly.

Brian Ahmedani, who is an epidemiologist at Henry Ford tells that the statewide figures are showing an increase in the number of suicides per year whereas the Henry Ford health system has been keeping that number low and steady. It is also being brought under consideration that health costs could be brought down a great deal by focusing on treating depression in people.

It must not be forgotten here that when depression is not treated it gives us the gifts of hypertension, diabetes and other chronic conditions. Henry Ford has done a great job by keeping its number of employees always up to the requirement despite the training costs.

Henry Ford has been busying too much in helping people stay away from suicide despite their mental conditions. It did not find the time to calculate the costs of the treatment for patients as well as the organization itself. Centerstone is the organization that invested time in calculating the costs of the program. Centerstone did this by calculating the costs of the program on 200 patients. The costs were calculated for a year and it was found out that avoiding emergency admissions and long term hospitalizations saved a huge sum of $400,000.

Espiritu has talked about the spirit of zero suicide program and clarified the philosophy behind it. She said that people could argue that reducing suicide should have been enough and that we should not focus putting the suicide number down to zero. She said that the program wants zero suicide because this is something we would always want for ourselves and our families. If we let just 1 person commit suicide, this person could turn out to be our son, daughter or parent.

She said that it is nearly impossible to bring this number down to zero but her health system will continue to follow it as a goal.
When it comes to Lynn, in her words she has not been cured. The program she went through at Henry Ford was more like enlightenment for her.

She believes that this program taught her some lessons about her life rather than curing her. She says that she has accepted bipolar condition as part of her life but taken it as a challenge. She thinks that the program has taught her how to live. She also considers her case a story that could be mentioned under the success stories of the Henry Ford program.

But many veterans and their families have noticed that seeking treatment for brain injuries and depression lead to questionnaires about guns in the home, and quite frankly see this as a direct attack on their firearms rights.  Unless and until the government stops using things like this as a pretextual tool to disarm law abiding citizens, attorney and former U.S. Marine, Michael Ehline says:

we will probably continue to see a rise in military deaths by suicide. Vets just don’t trust a government that is now flooding the country with the very same people they were fighting overseas, and would rather deal with depression than be disarmed. That is just a cold, hard fact.

Ehline says that the government should focus on school voucher programs to allow parents to send their kids to the school of their choice, and re institute the Civilian Marksmanship Program in those schools, as a method of breaking up the anti self defense, unionized power-structure in the public education system, thereby increasing the chances of vets and others seeking help for things like depression.

The bottom line is that vets who swore an oath to defend the Constitution can clearly see that the rights they swore to defend are being taken from them, and they feel like they are under attack by public school teachers, VA doctors and the news media. If they had some security in knowing they were not being consistently targeted by bureaucrats and “journalists,” they would probably seek treatment.

Correlation does not mean causation. Taking away a vet’s gun will not prevent him or her from killing himself, and will “probably increase the chances of that happening” said Ehline. It’s time to stop playing silly games and start helping vets deal with depression. It is not a crime to be depressed and certainly does more harm than good to allow Uncle Same to come between patients and doctors.


should have the same duties of confidentiality as a priest to a parishioner says Ehline.

What do you think? Do you think more vets would seek depression care if they did not have to fear being disarmed by the VA or an Obamacare edict?


Assisted Suicide and its Real Life Victims

The State Gets into the Suicide Business
Women and suicide

It’s been all over the news the last several weeks. California is nearing allowing assisted suicide in the state, joining Oregon and others that allow the practice. It is a part of a wider debate about the sanctity of life and the ability for a sick person to be able to control their life and ending it. It’s not a debate for the squeamish and comes with many moral and ethical concerns, to be sure. There are many parts of this debate and tremendous consequences of any decisions by the state.

Reuters reported on the legislation that is clearing the legislature. It is not immediately clear if Governor Jerry Brown will sign the legislation. He may not sign it but may allow it to pass by not vetoing it. The proposed law would only come into effect if a person has six months or less to live and if such a view was supported by two different physicians. The prospect of assisted suicide plays into the moral dimensions of such legislation and the amount that the law will come into play.

California’s government is playing with fire, legally and morally. How can a person be declared legally competent to make the decision to die? How would this effect the use of life insurance and ability for patients to pay for medical care? Would a patient choose suicide on purpose because they knew that the next six months of medical bills could bankrupt their families?

Would such a decision cut short the chances of patients that could have a miraculous recovery? Would some patients feel pressured into committing assisted suicide by their physicians because of personal or medical beliefs? Could a state mandate the death of its own citizens that did not commit heinous crimes? Could a hospital or the state deem a person too expensive to treat and have them ‘put down?’

It appears that the state legislature is not prepared to make such decisions on behalf of the many terminally ill patients in California. The unfortunate reality is that there are far more questions than answers that such a law would bring about and would serve as a gateway to a wider series of assisted suicide regulations that would come into effect over the coming years and decades.

California’s legal and medical systems are not ready for such determinations yet. The eagerness of the state to allow such errors is a sad reflection of the state of the state.

Stephen Hawking, Loneliness and Assisted Suicide

President Obama Gives Hawking a Medal
President Obama Gives Hawking a Medal

Taking ones own life is a decision that touches all classes of men and women alike, including intellectuals and scientists. Just recently, famous Cambridge professor and physicist Stephen Hawking stated that he would consider assisted suicide if he believed he was a burden to others and had no more to contribute.

Hawking is no different than a growing number of elderly, disabled and those suffering wasting diseases, and even chronic pain, for example who believe that they should have the legal right to get help from a professional in taking their own lives. In any event, Hawking has made multiple contributions to society, and any burden he has been on others is arguably easily outweighed by the benefits his existence has had on millions of people around the galaxy.

Hawking made the statements in an interview airing on BBC One documentary with Dara O’Brian, which made me concerned that Hawking had been doing some premature end of life planning. But let’s hope it’s just me overreacting. Below is a video snippet of some of his comments on assisted suicide.

The 73 year-old Physicist said that keeping someone alive against their wishes is the ultimate indignity during the interview. The Cambridge educated physicist and cosmologist stated he has no plans of dying before unraveling more of the universe. Thank God for that!

Hawking Used to Be Against Suicide as a Solution

Hawking who has a who has a form of motor neuron disease, said he changed his mind about assisted suicide in 2013, saying that people with terminal illness that are in great pain should have the right to choose to end their lives. Prior to this, the professor had said assisted suicide is a “great mistake” and “while there’s life there is hope.”

It appears that as he gets closer to his deaths bed, Hawking isn’t leaving any options on the table for his departure. I for one am glad he decided to stay alive and not end his life, despite his physical setbacks. But I too can understand why Mr. Hawking is probably ready to check out, seeing as how he is so reliant upon everyone else, and he basically must have a lonesome existence.

It is easy for me to envision his depression he must surely suffer. After all, he is human just like you and I. And with no cure in sight, and the sands of time sifting away, finally he has soul searched and revised his beliefs. During the interview that will be aired on BBC this June 15th, Hawking, who is permanently in a wheelchair, talked about being lonely, saying at times he is very lonely because people are afraid to talk to him, or wait for him to write a response. The physicist said he is shy with people he doesn’t know and sometimes tired.

Assisted Suicide Is Illegal In the UK

The right to die by assisted suicide in England is illegal, and in some circumstances it can be punishable by up to 14 years in prison. This past week Lord Falconer sponsored a private members bill focused on the terminally ill right to die and the week prior the Scottish assembly voted on an assisted suicide bill that was defeated with a vote of 86 to 36.

Whether or not the law is changed based upon humanitarian reasons, it is clear to us that Hawking needs love, attention and affection, and perhaps some distractions to get his mind on how great life is, and give up these thoughts of assisted suicide as being a viable option. We hope and pray that Hawking will stay alive until unravels all the secrets and until then, God bless you Sir Hawking.

Prisons and Suicide At the Forefront


The state of Delaware between 2000 and present day, the Department of Corrections has reported that 32 inmates have died due to suicide leaving families to question why the inmates were not monitored.  Ian Arias family is one of the families questioning why these inmates are not better protected.

Arias had a history of suicide attempts, since his teen years and after being arrested as an adult he was taken to the Delaware Psychiatric Center. Arias then faced a series of events while awaiting trial in his prison cell at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center.  March 5, 2013 Ian Arias hung himself with a bed sheet in his prison cell.

Maria Cristina Kurcan filed a lawsuit hoping to get answers about her 36 year old son, Ian from Wyoming. His mother says she just wants the truth and to know it will not happen again in the prison.
The lawsuit was brought by Ian’s mother and his brother prior to the second anniversary of his death. The lawsuit claims that doctors at several state agencies and top officials failed to keep Arias safe, these include the Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, Corrections Care Solutions that is a company providing health care services to the state and the Delaware Psychiatric Center.

Dover Attorney Andre Beauregard, who is representing Arias family, stated that Ian was someone who made his suicidal attentions clear. The lawyer said Arias attempted to commit suicide twice while in the Department of Corrections. He was then sent to the psychiatric center and was still expressing suicidal tendencies was released back to the prison where within twenty days he was successful in committing suicide.

The lawsuit also alleges the day Arias committed suicide, March 5, 2013 at approximately 10:10 a.m. after being released from the infirmary prison officials found him unconscious. The cause of death was ruled suicide and the suit claims Arias was not regularly monitored and the prison staff was not properly trained.  Maria Cristina A. Kurcan stated about her son Ian Arias that state officials failed to keep him safe while in custody at the James T. Vaughn Corrections Center in 2013.

In the lawsuit it claims Arias told staff members he would attempt suicide when given the opportunity. It alleges that a social worker’s protests that Arias was still suicidal and exhibiting psychomotor retardation he was still discharged from the psychiatric center by a physician.  Arias mother claims once he returned to prison he was kept in the infirmary where she believes he felt isolated, since family was not permitted to visit him there.

Arias was born and raised in the Philippines, moving to the United States with his family in 1990. He was the second oldest out of eight children, with Arias mother claiming she brought them to the United States to have a good life.  The Department of Corrections in a released statement said they are dedicated to the behavioral and physical needs of inmates.

A statement released by the state agencies saying they will not comment on pending litigation.  The Department of Corrections has claimed it adheres to the 26-page policy to prevent suicides in response to Arias’ family lawsuit. Within the pages of the policy inmates are screened upon arrival at the prison to determine if they are a suicidal or self injury risk.

Inmates at risk are identified and either treated at the state’s prison facility, where they are closely monitored, inmates may also be placed in a specialized treatment setting in the prison facility, said DOC spokesman Jason Miller. At risk inmates may have one-on-one observation or checks at least every 15 minutes. At risk inmates may have one-on-one observation or checks at least every 15 minutes.
The policy addresses the items at risk inmates are permitted to have, such as bed linens, pens, pencils and plastic bags.

The legal action claims that Arias had a history of major depressive disorder, being diagnosed after he attempted suicide at age 15 while he was in foster care. During the time Arias was awaiting trial he attempted to commit suicide at least two times and told the prison staff of his intent to kill himself.

The lawsuit claims a court order sent Araias in November to be transferred to the Delaware Psychiatric Center where he would receive one-on-one monitoring. Arias was medicated over the next few months and sometimes receiving one-on-one monitoring and other times having 15 minute monitoring depending on his suicidal thoughts at the time.

Arias worked as a landscaper and after being arrested on June 28, 2012 on charges of sexual abuse and rape of a child with police maintaining the rape occurred since 2011 multiple times in Arias’ home. His family was unable to post bail.

Suicide within Prison

The U.S. Department of Justice 2010 study data of deaths in jails and prison nationwide, suicide is the leading cause of death.
This was the National Study of Jail Suicide, which shows the rate of suicides in prisons over the general population is several times higher.

There has been some action taken to reduce the numbers of suicide in recent years since 2007, which has effectively resulted in few deaths. According to the study the number of suicides as dropped from the 1986 number of 107 suicides per 100,000 inmates nationwide to the 2006 number of 36 suicides per 100,000.

Inmate Suicide Prevention

The state of Delaware has focused on prevention of suicides of mentally ill inmates and patients by providing better conditions.
There have been investigations with one in 2005 of the prison medical care and a federal civil rights investigation, which resulted in a settlement. The state and federal monitoring that ended in 22013 required significant reforms (Source.)

In 2011 a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice after an investigation of the Delaware Psychiatric Center resulted in calling for improved conditions with monitoring by a court appointed monitor to meet the obligations of the settlement. According to Delaware Department of Corrections between the years of 2007 and 2015 there has been 20 inmate suicides, with one occurring in 2015 at Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution. Since 2007 there have been 10 inmates at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center that have committed suicide.

The Department of Corrections policy states that all staff shall undergo eight hours of suicide prevention training upon starting at the prison and shall be required to take a two hour refresher course annually. This is clarified also in the 2010 national study as a recommendation.

The Department of Corrections according to mental health advocates is proceeding in the right direction and executive director of the Mental Health Association in Delaware, Jim Lafferty said that over 30 officers of a crisis center intervention team trained in May and this training could be used for correctional officers.  NAMI Delaware Executive Director Joshua Thomas stated that the Department of Corrections while handling a large number of inmates should be encouraged to focus on solutions to prevent suicides.

Guide To Preventing Prison Suicides Here.

Assisted Suicide Ban Challenged in the Golden State

Jack Kevorkian
Doctor Death or Angel of Freedom?

There have been endless battles over patient rights and assisted suicide. People take their lives in many ways. Doctor Jack Kevorkian, left, was a pioneer in the field of assisted suicide and received much media exposure. But then like now, when another person, even a doctor helps, it can become a homicide charge for the assistant, typically a doctor administering a painless sleep inducing type of drug. In fact, the doctor, or aider and abetter could also face a lawsuit for wrongful death (source.) The fact that a doctor could be facing a murder charge, makes it very hard to find an otherwise willing physician to help the patient.

San Francisco leukemia patient Christie White along with her doctors is challenging the ban on physician assisted suicide. They plan to use the legal strategy going state-by-state to challenge the bans on assisted suicide, while right-to-die advocates continue their pursuit with politicians.

White age 53 filed her lawsuit using the legal tactic that states such as New Mexico, Montana and New York against California’s laws.
The lawsuit claims California’s laws involving end-of-life treatments have been on the books for 140 years and are outdated and by denying patients these treatments physicians are threatened with criminal prosecution. It claims state constitutional protections are violated, since California laws cover privacy, “personal dignity” and independence making medical decisions.

Disability Rights Legal Center attorney Kathryn Tucker, who is representing White stated the case is to bring focus on the fact that patients choosing end-of-life treatment is not suicide.
On the Disability Rights Legal Center website White has discussed her seven year battle with leukemia and why she wants her physicians to be able to help in her death. She also mentions she would like to die in her own community and speaks of Brittany Maynard’s case.

Maynard’s video went viral in 2014 about having brain cancer and her right to die with dignity. In her case Maynard was forced to move from San Francisco to Oregon in order to receive end-of-life treatment for her terminal cancer.  The video is below for your viewing pleasure.

Currently Oregon is one of three states where doctor assisted suicide is legal.

White said she did not want to be forced to move to Oregon, leaving her husband, family and friends and said it is time for California to allow patients to make their own end-of-life medical decisions.

The U.S. Supreme Court previously has ruled doctor assisted suicide laws should be determined by the states (See Wiki Here.) Legal experts say this forces advocates of end-of-life treatment to refrain from arguing that denying physician assisted suicide violates the patient’s federal constitutional rights.

White has stated she says she will back the lawsuit while fighting her illness and when her time comes she wants to be with her loved ones and die a peaceful death in California with dignity. White’s attorneys stated they want to speed up White’s lawsuit and raise the argument of a “fundamental right” in the state construction for patients with terminal illnesses to get the life ending treatments.

According to University of New Mexico law professor Robert Schwartz physician assisted life ending treatments and gay marriage are the two civil rights issues of the decade. Schwartz believes that the strategy in the California lawsuit is fitting.

Targets of White’s San Francisco legal action are San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and Attorney General Kamala Harris. They have declined comment about the lawsuit and they would be responsible for prosecution of White’s physicians if they provided life ending treatment for the leukemia patient.

Democratic Senator Bill Monning of San Luis Obispo and Lois Wolk of Davis introduced a bill last month in an attempt to legalize doctor assisted suicide in California. The legislation is modeled after Oregon’s law and should soon be the topic of committee hearings.
Last year in New Mexico a judge ruled doctors could not be prosecuted for assisting dying patients but the ruling is now being reviewed by the state appeals court.

Legal arguments that can be used in challenging California’s 1874 assisted suicide statute, include the New Mexico ruling. Montana is a state where the Montana Supreme Court also ruled in 2009 to ban the prosecution of physicians providing end of life treatment to patients. The ruling used the State Constitution that protects the patients.

Californians Against Assisted Suicide spokesman Tim Rosales said the lawsuit in a broader sense is a strategy to legalize the use of drugs that accelerate death. Rosales said this strategy is an attempt to throw anything out and see what works. Groups that are against the end of life treatments by doctors are becoming involved with court cases to preserve the laws against doctor assisted suicides.

California High School Students Accused of Taking Upskirt Pictures

Muff Shots
Looking up skirts

By attorney Michael Ehline – Yes you heard it right, Catholic School kids got caught taking snapshots of their teacher’s panties. When I was growing up, I heard stories about fellow classmates taping mirrors to their shoes so they could see up the school-girls’ skirts.  I never thought much of it, since I had the persuasive ability to remove that “skirt” barrier with just a little sweet talk even back then. All joking aside, there are some sick people out there who need a little more parental supervision and instruction, and perhaps a little less Ritalin or other drug concoction.

In this case, rather than give “teach” an appreciative apple, we have a situation where she is being treated as a sexual object by her charges. This is pure madness. In any event, I thought of the potential liabilities and damages of all concerned if someone were to take their own life due to the embarrassment and grief, as well as other potential claims, if this were to go to court and wanted to share this with parents and teachers, so they have an idea of my findings so far.

Teens alleged to Have Taken Upskirt Photos of Female Teachers

First off, these allegations involve teen boys. This means the parents are still legally liable up to certain amounts for the torts of their children, incorrigible or not.  The facts relate that in 2013 some male students attending Serra High School in San Mateo, California are alleged to have been involved in a game of taking upskirt pictures of female teachers.

Victims of The Teacher of UpSkirt Game

One of the teachers who became a victim of the students game was Serra High School teacher 38 year-old Kimberly Bohnert. The teacher has said of the embarrassing photos that she heard one of the students describing her private parts in the hallway.

School, Child or Parent as a Defendant?

First, you have to figure out what you would sue each potential party for.  The potential defendants would be the parents, the kids and the school because each party is responsible in same way for the custody, management and control of the kids who were looking up the teacher’s skirt. This is probably not an assault, kidnapping, battery or defamation case.  What the heck is it? I would say it is intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IED”) as a starter as far as the kids go, and I cold see the parents potentially being on the hook for this in one way or another.

But I can see many other theories of recovery as against parent and child. For now I just want to see who I can sue, so let’s go with IED. As a great attorney, the first thing you will need to do is analyze where the deep pockets are to pay your claims. In cases where a child is under 4 years old,  the general rules is that children cannot be sued for negligence.  But there is some authority to suggest the child could be sued for intentional acts. (Good luck collecting the damages though.)

As a child gets older into the teens however, a few jurisdictions have been known to use the “reasonable adult” standard when determining liability in torts by teens and youngsters between 4 and 14. So if a reasonable adult would not have run A over with a car, then a teen, B, for example should not have done so either and the negligence standards of reasonableness would apply. In cases such as bullying and harassment, if a child intentionally injures a person, juries can often be instructed to identify if the defendant child is mature enough to form the actual intent to commit that harm. If this is found, then a child can definitely be sued.  So now we have established that the teens definitely can be sued here.

But who will pay? Perhaps the kids have a trust fund held for them until the child reaches 18, from their grandparents who passed away for example? Would a court allow it to be pierced? Maybe, or maybe not. In most cases, parents are vicariously liable for the bad acts of kids under a negligent supervision theory, but not always.  In California, parents are civilly liable for a “minor’s acts of willful misconduct resulting in death, personal injury or property damage.”  (See Cal. Civ. Code § 1714.1 (2005).)

So here, the facts demonstrate a willful act, IED. The problem is that there is zero insurance coverage available for willful acts, as a matter of public policy, and thus, the teacher would have to try and go after hard assets, instead of cold, hard insurance cash, which is a problem, considering the things people do to hide assets and avoid paying judgments. The attorney has to find a way to not only get liability, but also get the money.

Here, ex-teacher Bohnert is fighting back by filing a lawsuit against the high school, alleging that in her classroom in the Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, she was harassed for two years. The lawsuit goes on to claim that the school that is all male, failed to protect her and other female teachers. The teacher is seeking back pay and damages.  The school has already expelled six students and suspended six students after the incident came out.

Sexual Harassment

Individuals are protected from sexual harassment by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as a form of sexual discrimination. Title VII employment sexual harassment is overseen and enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This agency administers, investigates and resolves unfair employment practices, including sexual harassment in the workplace. So here, the basis of the suit appears to be that the school failed to protect the female teacher from sexual harassment by the student body.

One can easily see how a depressed teacher could become suicidal over this.  Depression and public embarrassment is huge in cases like this. So assuming there was a suicide here or in a future case like this, it is easy to see how a survivor could sue the school for a self inflicted death, based upon these same exact facts. This is just one of many examples of a case that could destroy the life of a person.

Collecting money damages, getting into therapy and curing and correcting depression is mandatory. This teacher will have this stigma hanging over her head forever. I have not seen a copy of the complaint, but based upon my research, it appears the only defendant is the school.  The plaintiff could not sue the parents or kids for sexual harassment, since they are not employees of the school. But there are other claims such as invasion of right of privacy type theories that could be considered.

We will keep you updated. The takeaway from this should be that parents need to take more of an active role in constructing a moral base for their kids, and that public servants who run tax funded schools, as well as religious schools who should take more of an active role in protecting employees from out of control children. Boys looking up the skirts of female teachers need to understand that doing so is wrong. Taking pictures of your teacher’s privates is the epitome of moral bankruptcy. All roads lead to the parents in my view. What is your take on this?

Other Resources:

Jeremy Cloyd, Esq.  Bad Parenting Does Not Always Equal Tort Liability in California: July 2013. Plaintiff Magazine.

Walker, Nancy E., Catherine M. Brooks, and Lawrence S. Wrightsman. 1999. Children’s Rights in the United States: In Search of a National Policy. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.

Postman, Neil. 1982. The Disappearance of Childhood. New York: Delacorte.

Purdy, Laura M. 1992. In Their Best Interest? Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press.

Richards, Janet Leach. 1999. “Children’s Rights v. Parents’ Rights: A Proposed Solution to the Custodial Relocation Conundrum.” New Mexico Law Review 29 (spring).




Military Suicide Study Conducted

Suicide Study
Enemy Within

Most people don’t think a study needs to be conducted to know that there are a lot of suicides in the military, especially in the Marine Corps. I personally believe that younger people are at higher risk for suicide, and thus, this explains a high risk in the Corps. But a general study has been conducted known as the University of Kentucky Suicide Bereavement Study, with the support of the MSRC. This study is focusing on determining specific elements:

The study is placing attention on two basic elements:

  • The numbers of Veteran’s who know a person who committed suicide.
  • What the reaction of the veterans are to the suicide experienced.

This study has included veterans, which includes National Guard service members and family members of service personnel. The volunteers are individuals who:

  • Veterans or the loved one of active duty personnel that has served within the past ten years.
  • Family members including spouses and adult children, who lost an active duty service member or veteran to suicide within the past five years.
  • National Guard service members and their family members.

The potential participants can be interviewed, if they reside in Kentucky in a private location at their convenience and for others the interviews can be done via Skype or Facetime.

Insomnia Study and Treatment

Another project that is funded by the MSRC, by Rebecca Bernert in California is, An Insomnia Intervention for Suicidal Behaviors in Military Veterans. This is a study involving non-pharmacological insomnia treatment for military personnel and veterans, who have returned from Iraq and are returning from Afghanistan. This study, which offers non-pharmacological insomnia treatment for present and past service members for a certain time limit is focusing on sleep disturbances having a potentially larger risk for thoughts of suicide.

The focus is on:

  • The symptoms of insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Poor quality of sleep

The Standford Mood Disorder Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Bernert Lab at Standford University School of Medicine is running the research that other studies have indicated sleep problems may be a warning sign or higher risk factor for service member or veteran suicides. The sleep issues and risk factor may be lowered with treatment and Project Serve is seeking service personnel and veterans who are seeking treatment for insomnia. if you are interested or know someone who wants to participate, please click here.