Kennedy Sues Nurses, Hospital After Scuffle

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media , January 22, 2013

There's another twist in an odd story that pits a new dad in a violent scuffle against the nurses who were caring for his newborn son. Sure, that sounds odd all by itself.

But the reason it's sparked a year's worth of headlines? That new dad is Douglas Kennedy, son of Robert Kennedy.

Here's a quick recap: On Jan. 7, 2012, Kennedy was arrested on misdemeanor charges of child endangerment and harassment after a struggle with two nurses at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, NY.

According to media reports, the nurses allege that Kennedy twisted one of their wrists and kicked the other when they tried to stop him from taking his newborn son outside for some "fresh air." Kennedy's counters that anything he did was simply an attempt to protect his son.

The hospital said in a statement that it supported its nurses, and I (and several readers of this column) couldn't understand why or how the situation escalated into violence.

Nonetheless, a jury acquitted Kennedy in late November of endangerment of a child and two counts of physical harassment against the nurses.

Now the case has taken another detour: Kennedy is reportedly now turning the tables by suing the nurses who were involved in the encounter and Northern Westchester Hospital, charging defamation and malicious prosecution.

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2 comments on "Kennedy Sues Nurses, Hospital After Scuffle"

Judy Elam (1/25/2013 at 9:51 AM)
As sad and sick as this entire situation appears, one could only hope that it might ultimately lead to better clarification of professional role responsibility for nursing staff. We hold ourselves so accountable for every aspect of pt health, safety & well-being while one is in our care. We struggle daily with HIPAA-based issues, and wonder if we have done too much to assist a pt in need, or have not done enough to help. Apparently in this 'elite' case, a judge/jury decided that nurses intent on protecting an infant who potentially was facing some level of harm at worst and was leaving the floor during an admission at least [in winter in New York to go outside on a roof with minimal cover for 'fresh air'??], did not have the right or responsibility to assure that it was safe in the face of its biological father's personal wishes. One could therefore conclude that a nurse has no right or need to question a biological parent's care; the parent is 'always right'. And if that same parent had jumped off the roof with pt/child in arms? One can only assume that said parent had the right to do so, and said nurses had no right to prevent or attempt to prevent this action. Defamation of character by the nurses? I believe the father's actions defame him in their own right. How much easier and simpler this profession would be if nurses were indeed not responsible for the care & well-being of their patient!!

Sam Kaplan (1/23/2013 at 4:09 PM)
1. Throughout this affair Mr. Kennedy has acted like someone in need of medical attention, and that appears to be continuing. 2. As for HIPAA, I do not recall reading anywhere to what extent a hospital may use PHI in defense against a lawsuit, which is the sharing that Mr. Kennedy alleges. As Ms. Pecci points out, that issue is not going away, and if there is not clarity in the law or regulations, then a court ruling on it will hold sway.




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