Page last updated at 12:28 GMT, Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Woman can sue over suicide mother

The daughter of a mentally ill woman who killed herself after leaving a hospital has won the the right to sue the health trust for damages.

Anna Savage claims the hospital allowed her mother, Carol, to escape and kill herself and should be held liable.

Law Lords rejected the argument by South Essex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust that it could not be held liable.

Lord Rodger said the Trust was under a general obligation to take precautions to prevent suicides.

He said health authorities also had an obligation, if staff knew or ought to have known that a patient presented a "real and immediate" risk of suicide, to do all they could to prevent it.

Psychiatric ward

Ms Savage, 50, who had a history of mental illness, absconded from Runwell Hospital in Wickford, Essex, in July 2004, where she was being treated for paranoid schizophrenia in an open acute psychiatric ward.

She walked to Wickford station where she jumped in front of a train.

Her daughter claimed that as a result of her mother's death she suffered distress, anxiety, vexation, bereavement, loss and damage, and sought compensation.

She argued that the Trust took insufficient care to protect her mother's "right to life" under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In December 2006, a High Court judge blocked the claim on the basis that it would need to be proved there was "gross negligence" on the part of the hospital authorities.

Last year, however, the Court of Appeal held that the case could go ahead.

The Trust's appeal against that ruling was dismissed on Wednesday by Lords Scott, Rodger, Walker and Neuberger and Baroness Hale.

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