Health

Woman Held In Hospital For Six Days After Saying She Wanted To Strangle Relative

| by Jonathan Wolfe

New Hampshire hospital employee Noreen Cousins is suing her employer after she was locked in a hospital emergency room for six days last year. Her coworkers will tell you she was mentally dangerous when she was locked away. If you talk to Cousins you’ll hear a much different story.

Cousins’ lawsuit reports that she told several of her coworkers she was so upset with a relative she could “strangle” him. Though this sounds like a passing remark someone would make about a family member they’re upset with, Cousins’ coworkers took her words seriously.

Her colleagues, whom Cousins says have a history of being “antagonistic” towards her, went to management and claimed Cousins planned to shoot up her workplace and kill herself.  A supervisor took the claim to a justice of the peace, who immediately initiated an Involuntary Emergency Admissions process.

Cousins was forcefully taken to an emergency room where a physician evaluated her. The physician recommended Cousins be evaluated by a psychiatrist. In the lawsuit, Cousins says she made an off-hand remark about being frustrated at the man divorcing her daughter. She said she was upset enough to strangle and shoot him, a statement that in all likelihood was an exaggerated way of expressing her frustration towards him.

Nevertheless, Cousins was held in an emergency room for the following six days. New Hampshire’s hospitals are severely logjammed, and there were no open rooms in psychiatric care centers. Since the doctor ruled she needed to be evaluated, Cousins was not free to leave.

For six days she was stuck in a room without television or internet. A hospital employee had to accompany her if she wished to walk the hallways of the hospital.

“It was barbaric,” she said.

Cousins’ lawyer Charles Douglas spoke to the Union Leader recently about the lawsuit.

"These are statements you hear at a water cooler when someone's got a family member going through a divorce," Douglas said.

Douglas said Cousins was diagnosed with “homicidal ideation” after her remark about the man divorcing her daughter. The lawsuit claims she was not mentally unstable or even threatening when she made the statements -- she was just blowing off steam.

After six days Cousins was transferred to a state hospital. She was discharged the following day with no further mental health concerns. Her lawsuit seeks unspecified damages. 

Source: New Hampshire Union Leader