Monday, April 11, 2005

Patient who gouged out eyes sues hospital

A psychiatric patient who gouged out both of his eyes while in a state of religious delirium is suing two Montreal hospitals, claiming they are responsible for failing to prevent his gruesome self-inflicted injuries.

Now blind, disfigured, jobless and socially isolated, the 47-year-old man is suing the McGill University Health Centre and the Douglas Hospital.

According to a statement of claim filed Friday in Quebec Superior Court, Maurice Arseneault is a paranoid schizophrenic suffering from bipolar disorder. He has been in and out of the Douglas since age 19.

In August 1998, he was being treated as an outpatient when he began hallucinating about God and demons.

The court documents say Arseneault told his case worker and doctor at least twice that he wanted to be hospitalized but they changed his medication and increased the dosage.

Things soon spiralled out of control.

"On Aug. 30, the plaintiff went to Dorval airport on a mission to find God, reasoning (that) to reach heaven, he needed to take an airplane," the documents say.

Then he returned home and cut the telephone and cable-TV wires to his home and cut up all his credit cards.

Later that day he returned to the airport to ask travellers for help finding God.

When the RCMP approached Arseneault, he told them he wanted to be sent to the Douglas.

"The plaintiff remembers asking the ambulance attendants (who escorted him) to restrain him because he was afraid of himself," the lawsuit states.

Fifteen minutes after he was brought to the Douglas, Arseneault was put in an isolation room. He looked out the window, asked God to forgive his sins and recalled the Bible passage "eye for eye" before extracting his left eye and throwing it on the ground, the suit says.

Medical personnel rushed in and put the eye in a glass of water.

Arseneault was transported to the Montreal General Hospital, a branch of the university hospital centre.

Days later, he asked a nurse at the Montreal General to undo his restraints. She complied. Arseneault immediately tore out his right eye, the court papers claim.

The nurse began crying.

Arseneault's lawyer, Martin Larocque, said: "Both hospitals had an obligation ... to protect Mr. Arseneault from himself."

The McGill University Hospital Centre did not comment Friday.

Arseneault's eyes could not be saved.

He said he launched his suit because as a longtime patient with a history of suicide attempts, the Douglas should have hospitalized him much sooner.

"They need to keep their eyes open, to use a pun," Arseneault said.



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