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Parents have made a number of attempts to sue the universities where their children commit suicide. These suits usually fail, as they usually should.

[T]hough colleges and universities bear some responsibility in protecting their students from harm, “universities are not responsible for monitoring and controlling all aspects of their students’ lives.” A key factor is whether a school or its employees could reasonably anticipate harm coming to the student from the school failing to take steps to protect him or her.

“[Han Duy] Nguyen never communicated by words or actions to any MIT employee that he had stated plans or intentions to commit suicide, and any prior suicide attempts occurred well over a year before matriculation,” the ruling states. “There was no evidence that [his professors, whom he sued] had actual knowledge of Nguyen’s plans or intentions to commit suicide. Both were academics; neither was a trained clinician.”

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3 Responses to “The Right Call”

  1. Bernard Carroll Says:

    The doctrine of in loco parentis might apply to younger students, and certainly to boarding school pupils. This unfortunate man was well beyond the reach of in loco parentis, however, and even for the school to notify his parents of any concerns would have been problematic, given HIPAA regulations.

  2. David Foster Says:

    “even for the school to notify his parents of any concerns would have been problematic, given HIPAA regulations.”

    I know someone whose son at college actually tried to commit suicide (unsuccessfully), and he (the father) was never notified.

    This probably is indeed a HIPAA issue: maybe the statute/regulations need to be modified.

  3. dmf Says:

    absolutely is a HIPAA issue and shouldn’t be amended, if parents want to be part of the process they just need their kids to sign off on the communications.

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