A Wrongful Death: One Child's Fatal Encounter with Public Health and Private Greed

Leon Bing, Author
Leon Bing, Author Villard Books $25 (320p) ISBN 978-0-679-44841-9
Hardcover - 978-0-517-28561-9
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In November 1991, Christy Scheck's parents brought her to Southwood Psychiatric Center in Chula Vista, Calif., for help. Their 13-year-old daughter had moved beyond adolescent acting up to theft and self-mutilation. They didn't know that the hospital's CEO was using devious means to make a profit in an era of increasingly stringent insurance company guidelines. Records were rigged to indicate need for continual treatment; families were excluded from decision-making; and while psychiatrists' hours were reduced, therapy sessions were conducted by unlicensed mental-health counselors and interns. The dangerous, hallucination-inducing dosages of medication given to Christy were only one element of the poor care at SPC. Worse, Christy was only casually monitored--despite being on a suicide watch--and after four months at SPC, she killed herself. Within weeks, the Schecks brought a lawsuit against SPC and National Medical Enterprises (NME), the hospital's $4 billion corporate parent. Bing (Smoked) documents the downfall of NME, and she intertwines the Scheck tragedy with a litany of illegal practices and the excesses of corporate greed. ""Marketing was God,"" a former Southwood marketing executive told the author. Bing, who was motivated by her own experiences as an employee at a San Fernando Valley psychiatric facility in 1985, skillfully combines conversations with the Scheck family and with former SPC personnel with exhaustive research into financial figures and reports of related cases. This is a powerful and moving story, complete with a villainous corporation, a heroic mother and a sadly pathetic victim that is certain to interest filmmakers. Author tour. (Sept.)
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