The parents of a suicide victim are suing the Lehigh Valley Health Network for allowing their son to walk out of a psychiatric unit thinking he was no longer a danger to himself -- even though he had access to a gun.
Frederick Kochmaruk Sr. and his wife Jo Anne, of 710 Birch Drive, Walnutport, filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Northampton County Court on behalf of their deceased son, Frederick Kochmaruk Jr., who lived in Lansdale, Montgomery Co.
According to their suit, their son was 33, held two jobs and had no history of mental illness when he went to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest at 8 a.m. June 27, 2011, complaining of "palpitations, suicidal thoughts and depression." That was four days after he was prescribed the drug prednisone for a case of poison ivy by his primary care doctor, according to the suit.
A doctor at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest determined that Kochmaruk had tried to kill himself by taking all of his prednisone pills the night before, according to the suit, and around 10 a.m., Kochmaruk signed a voluntary commitment order, agreeing to treatment for at least 72 hours before being released.
Kochmaruk was admitted to the psychiatric unit at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg at 1:15 p.m., was seen by a doctor about 8 p.m. and evaluated by a nurse at 8:50 a.m. the following morning, according to the suit.
After being examined by Dr. Joel Lerman at 10 a.m., Kochmaruk was discharged a short time later -- about 24 hours after he was admitted to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest for a suicide attempt, according to the suit.
Kochmaruk was told only to see his primary care physician for more poison ivy medication, according to the suit.
Kochmaruk's condition continued to deteriorate, and on the evening of July 4, 2011, he took his life with a gun he owned -- and had told his caregivers about, according to the suit.
The suit charges medical and professional negligence and wrongful death, and also names Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg, the Lehigh Valley Physician Group, LVHN Behavioral Health Services, Muhlenberg Behavioral Health and Dr. Lerman as defendants. No dollar amount is requested in the suit, but punitive damages are being sought.
Brian Downs, director of media relations for LVHN, said Thursday that officials have not yet seen the suit, and would not comment on any matter that is a subject of litigation.