We Took Our Daughter To The ER For Help. She Ended Up Being Arrested.


We turn to medical professionals for help. Sadly, as this email shows, some practitioners are not as benevolent as we might hope.

Dear Pete,

My adult daughter, who is in her twenties, has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Late last year, she told me she was going to harm herself. I took her seriously because she had made a suicide attempt five months earlier. Fortunately, our police department has Crisis Intervention Team trained police officers and one came to our house and skillfully talked our daughter into going to a local hospital to be evaluated.

She was transported by ambulance at about 5:30 pm. Our daughter was still waiting in the ER by 11 p.m. and became distraught. I told the staff that she needed to take her medication, SAPHRIS, because it was wearing off. But they told me the hospital pharmacy did not have SAPHRIS available. I had some in my car, but when I said that I would go get it, I was told that wasn’t allowed.

My daughter was then informed that she was going to be involuntarily hospitalized. She became even more agitated and when she threatened to leave, a nurse confronted her and a scuffle broke out. My daughter was forcibly restrained by five hospital personnel.

The nurse prepared an injection to calm her and my daughter, who was terrified, said: “’I’ll take the pill. I’m scared of needles.” The nurse proceeded to give her the shot anyway and my daughter would later tell us that she went black.

The nurse was pushing her elbow into my daughter’s chest and our daughter bit the nurse’s arm. She didn’t break the skin and there was no blood. 

Our daughter was put in restraints. Her arms and legs were all restrained, so tightly that her hands began turning purple. I thought things couldn’t get worse but they did. Two officers showed up at the ER to arrest my daughter for aggravated battery against the nurse.

The nurse, who was bitten, never left her post that night because of the bite. She just kept working until her shift was over. Obviously, she was not seriously injured.

I apologized once I was aware of what was happening but that didn’t matter to the nurse. Later that night, our daughter was moved to a different section of the hospital. The treatment was totally different there. She was unrestrained and treated with dignity. I told them that I had my daughter’s medicine in the car and they allowed me to get it for her. By that point, it was 2. am.

Our daughter stayed in the hospital for five days and then was released.

We had to hire a lawyer to defend our daughter and she became distraught again. She took pills in an attempt to kill herself. This suicide attempt was directly linked to her worrying about the criminal charges filed against her and the approaching court date.

My husband and I were scared that night to call 911 because we were afraid that she would be taken to the same ER and that nurse might be working. Thankfully, she vomited the pills.

No parent should have to make that choice! Ever!

Our attorney tried to divert this case to a second chance program since our daughter has no criminal record but to do that, the states attorney’s office had to ask the victim (nurse) and my understanding is that she did not support that option. Of course, the arrest report and hospital records only have the nurse’s statement.

Our daughter is a young woman working to become well. She is compliant on meds, sees a therapist twice a week, and this experience has further traumatized her and made her distrust the hospital.

This was a case of excellent CIT work and awful care by emergency room professionals. I have repeatedly tried to get the nurse to drop the charge and have talked to hospital officials too. They have told me that the nurse has the right to pursue the charges. There were many missed opportunities at the hospital to avoid what happened.

My daughter went in as a sick young woman seeking help and left as a criminal. It has been six months; this incident derailed her recovery, and continues to haunt her.

We go to court in one week. I am worried about what will happen next.

Please sign me: Mother of daughter who went to the ER for help and got arrested.

It is difficult for those of us who have loved ones with mental disorders to understand why members of the public don’t understand that when someone is psychotic that person is acting abnormally. They are not themselves. They are sick.

It is even tougher to understand why some victims insist on pursuing charges when the infraction seems so minor, as it appears to be in the case of the nurse who was bitten. Prosecutors routinely charge the highest offense possible, hoping to plea bargain to a lesser offense to avoid a trial. But that practice often leaves the accused with a felony record.

When incidents such as this nurse-being-bitten case happen,  I believe prosecutors should resolve the case in a mental health court.

Our legal system was created to administer justice, and the public is best-served when someone with a mental disorder is “sentenced” to treatment for his/her illness. This doesn’t mean that having a mental disorder entitles anyone to a Get Out Of Jail Free Card. It means that when a mental illness is the underlying cause of a crime, treating that illness should be factored into the case – not imposing a life-long criminal record or sentencing someone in jail, which has proven to exacerbate mental illnesses and put the public at greater risk.

Prosecutors should not only consider a victims’ rights. They should also consider what is reasonable and just.

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.