Saturday, March 2, 2013
Justice For Ian Iskenderian ! Mercy Hospital finally to answer for tragedy in Oberlin.
On March 5th, the civil trial of Mercy Hospital, formerly known as Lorain Community Health Partners versus Laura Iskenderian will begin in a Lorain Common Pleas courtroom. This long awaited trial is the result of alleged negligence on the part of the hospital in the treatment of her son Ian, which led to a police standoff, shooting and the subsequent suicide of her son, who suffered from mental illness.
The seeds for this case were planted on November 31, 2005, when Ian Iskenderian, who was missing for several days, was discovered in a psychotic state, wandering near the community of Wakemen, Ohio. At that time, he was transported to Lorain Community Health Partners and placed in the emergency room where he lingered for several hours. Unnoticed, dressed only in a gown and slippers, he walked out of that ER, broke into a home, stole clothes, and a vehicle. He then drove out to Oberlin, broke into his grandparents business, stole some guns, and then shot up a gas station on the corner of SR 58 and US 20. As the police arrived, he then fired warning shots and hit their vehicles. It must be pointed out that Ian was an excellent marksman and could have certainly hit any of the officers if he had chosen.
Now with this scene becoming increasingly dangerous, the local SWAT team was summoned as Ian barricaded himself inside a barn. While his mother Laura pleaded with him to surrender, a shot was heard, and she just knew what that meant. Ian had put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. With that, the troubled life of Elvis Ian Iskenderian came to a sad conclusion.
For the next several days, the local front pages described how terror struck Oberlin, and how this standoff ended so tragically. The papers were full of stories on Ian and about some events in his life. Not surprisingly, a great deal of information released can be categorized as misinformation. One is that he was involved in an LSD induced altercation with the Oberlin police in 2001, which was stated as fact through various media outlets. In reality, the police were so caught up in their own prejudices at that time, they failed to check Ian's toxicology report. People would be shocked to discover that report showed no LSD was present in his system. Not surprisingly, the Oberlin police department, who repeatedly made these declarations, has never issued a retraction for that misinformation.
As the facts of this case became clearer, there began calls for accountability on the part of the hospital. On December 9, 2005, the Lorain Morning Journal challenged Lorain Community Health partners not to hide behind a shield of confidentiality and explain what happened: They said, "Excuse us, but the only person whose confidentiality might be violated is dead, apparently after he proved more than a match for hospital policy and procedure." In essence, how did this young man just walk out of the hospital?
Some other facts need to be clarified, which adds to Mercy Hospitals lack of a sound defense. Ian had previously been a patient there for mental health conditions, so they were aware of his diagnosis. With flight being a symptom of these conditions, why was he not restrained or at least watched closely by security personnel?
Additionally, this hospital claimed on more than one occasion, "no inpatient has left our facility in an unauthorized manner", implying that Ian was never admitted. Keep in mind that this hospital advertises short wait times in their ER, and Ian had been there for several hours. With that, how can they claim that they never admitted him? To play devil's advocate, even if he was not officially admitted, that should not absolve them of liability in this case. Once paramedics brought him in, it became the hospitals responsibility to protect and treat him, no matter what administrative technicalities they use as a defense!
Since this case, Mercy Hospital has boasted numerous improvements, including the mental health wing. They have even secured a portion of their ER with a specific "backdoor" for the police to bring in psych patients. However, when challenged about their improvements in an earlier column, the hospitals public relations department became characteristically silent. This begs another question; Was it a legitimate improvement, or was it designed to segregate people with one of the socially unacceptable disorders?
From personal experience, I have found the medical community to be surprisingly ignorant of mental illness, not just this one facility. It is as if people like Ian and me have little or no intrinsic value. Like a major part of society in general, people like us are marginalized, and others feel no significant obligation to provide the appropriate treatment.
Based on what occurred, more questions remain unanswered. Was Ian's handling the result of negligence, gross incompetence, or outright bigotry because of his illness? As harsh as an allegation of bigotry is, it bears investigating, because many things went wrong in that ER that day. It is not as if this is a small malfeasance; a young man died because of their actions.
This case will not be decided on the morality of Mercy Hospitals actions, but on the technical aspects of the law. This will make it a difficult case for the Iskenderian family to win, but it has so far survived many motions. I am certain that during this trial, both Ian and his single mother, will be dragged through the mud, but my hope is that the jury will not diminish the life of Ian, and show this hospital that people with mental illness do matter. If they do, perhaps more attention will be paid to those who suffer in silence and are desperate for treatment.
So often, when it comes to mistreating the mentally ill, little in the way of accountability is ever given to the offenders. It is still a common practice by the medical community and rogue police departments, to be abusive and dismissive of those afflicted, resulting in few if any individuals being punished for their actions. This lawsuit is about accountability, and about stopping the medical community from neglecting selected groups of individuals. This is more than respecting the rights of Ian; it is about restoring dignity to people, and holding those responsible for the discriminatory practices that they have perpetrated.