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Man hospitalized for 20 years due to misdiagnosis sues

A man who was confined in a mental institution for two decades before being released last year has sued the facility and its staff for $22 million. The 52-year-old man says he was misdiagnosed with a delusional disorder, resulting in two decades of hospitalization.

The man's nightmarish ordeal began in 1992, when he was arrested after reportedly trying to reclaim a home that he said was owned by his ancestors. The incident escalated into a police standoff involving gunfire, and the man was then arrested and charged with several criminal offenses, including weapons charges and attempted murder.

At trial, the man was found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to a mental hospital. There, he was incorrectly diagnosed with a delusional disorder based solely on the initial police reports -- even though an alternate version of the events had been presented at trial, suggesting that he was not in fact delusional.

For the next 20 years, the man tried to convince hospital staff that there had been a misunderstanding, but because of his diagnosis his objections were treated as a symptom of his purported illness. Finally, in 2012, his lawyer convinced a hospital psychiatrist to review the trial transcript, which supported the man's assertions that the actual events had been substantially different from what was indicated in the police report.

After reading the trial transcript, the psychiatrist immediately revised his diagnosis and the man was released. It was later concluded that the man's strange behavior on the day of his arrest had been caused by medication he was taking, and that his psychotic symptoms disappeared once the medication was discontinued.

This Kafkaesque story provides a true-to-life illustration of a type of medical malpractice that is not often discussed -- psychological misdiagnosis. If the man prevails in his lawsuit, he could be entitled to monetary compensation for the losses he incurred during his hospitalization, including lost wages and unnecessary medical treatment.

Source: Psychology Today, "Misdiagnosed Man Sues After 20 Years in a Psych Hospital," Romeo Vitelli, July 21, 2014

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