UVa Medical Center

UVa Medical Center

An unidentified woman has filed to appeal a lawsuit against University of Virginia Medical Center staff following the suit’s dismissal by a U.S. District Court judge last month.

The woman, identified as Jane Doe in the suit, claims a doctor and other emergency room staff violated her Fourth and 14th Amendment rights by giving her psychoactive and anti-anxiety drugs, forcefully taking a blood sample and then putting her in restraints to insert a catheter into her bladder to take a urine sample.

The woman was brought to the emergency room on an emergency custody order after a suicide attempt, documents show.

On Tuesday, Doe filed a notice of appeal to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, citing as grounds for an appeal the October dismissal of the case and an earlier ruling dismissing one of the defendants on the grounds that he had qualified immunity.

Last month, Judge Norman K. Moon agreed to dismiss the lawsuit and wrote in a memorandum opinion that his decision was due in part to a late attempt by the plaintiff to amend the complaint. The bulk of the defendants were dismissed for qualified immunity under the currently pleaded facts, Moon wrote.

“Plaintiff’s original complaint fails to establish that she has standing to ask for a court injunction that would require the Medical Center to respect, inter alia, her right to refuse medication and treatment,” Moon wrote.

“Further, Plaintiff has not shown good cause to permit her an eleventh hour amendment—made after a year of litigation and ten months beyond the forty-five-day deadline to amend her complaint—to introduce a request for a declaratory judgment as well as new factual allegations to bolster her claims for relief.”

Dr. Scott A. Syverud, who was the woman’s attending physician, was dismissed as a defendant at an earlier hearing after Moon decided he had qualified immunity.

Syverud’s earlier motion for dismissal shed more light on the incident, detailing that the woman was told that blood and urine samples were needed to assess her condition and they could be collected over her objection. He said she became violent and needed to be sedated and restrained to collect samples.

“[The woman] became combative and required physical and chemical restraint with Ativan, Benadryl and Zyprexa ordered by an [emergency department] physician,” the doctor’s filing states.

Syverud confirmed in his filing that the woman “was not determined to lack capacity to consent to treatment during the time that she was a patient,” but he said his actions were required because of the woman’s “intentional and/or negligent acts.”

He also said he “is qualifiedly immune from liability from any action brought against him” because he acted in “objectively good faith” and did not violate “clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of [the woman]” and acted within state law.

Moon later ruled that Syverud was entitled to immunity to the constitutional claims because the plaintiff failed to state a claim under Virginia law.

A requested injunction against Pamela Sutton-Wallace, the outgoing CEO of the UVa Medical Center, also was denied. The plaintiff sought to require all physicians, nurses and other health care providers at the Medical Center to inform patients of the medications being administered and to obtain consent.

The suit also sought compensatory damages and attorney fees to be determined by a jury.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has not yet decided whether Doe’s appeal has merit.

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