Wednesday, December 22, 2004

State, Not Wal-Mart, to blame in Suicide

If you've read some of my past posts you know I am 100% against most money-hungry Lawsuits. As much as I feel for the family of a 24-year-old Texas woman who committed Suicide, I think they are placing the blame on the wrong entity. Why? Because they know that entity has some money.
The family of the woman is sueing Wal-mart because their mentally disturbed daughter bought a shotgun from a Wal-Mart store which was located just 7 miles away from the Wal-Mart store where she gets her prescription mental health medication. At first glance you might think Wal-Mart should've shared information between pharmacies and known better. The problem is, because of today's anti-privacy laws, The stores could not communicate about the woman's health. In fact, Wal-mart did a complete background check and it came up empty. The reason? Texas is one of 38 states that does not report Mental Illness records to the FBI because of these, so-called, anti-privacy laws.
I for one hope Wal-Mart does not settle this case. They need to take it all the way so perhaps one day the blame which is getting placed on the chain of stores can be focused back to where it should be...the government entities which allow fact require happen.

DALLAS, Texas (AP) -- Near the end of her short life, Shayla Stewart, a diagnosed manic-depressive and schizophrenic, assaulted police officers and was arrested for attacking a fellow customer at a Denton Wal-Mart where she had a prescription for anti-psychotic medication.
Given all those signs, her parents say, another Wal-Mart just seven miles away should have never sold her the shotgun she used to kill herself at age 24 in 2003.

The Bracys said Wal-Mart's gun department could have checked Wal-Mart's own security files or the pharmacy department's prescription records before selling her the weapon.
But pharmacy prescription records are confidential under a 1996 federal law, so stores cannot use them when deciding whether to sell a gun.

Also, Wal-Mart did a background check on Stewart, as required under federal law, but through no fault of its own, her name did not show up in the FBI database. The reason: The database contains no mental health records from Texas and 37 other states.
Texas does not submit mental health records because state law deems them confidential, said Paul Mascot, an attorney with the Texas Department of State Health Services. Other states have not computerized their record-keeping systems or do not store them in a central location for use by the FBI.
Federal law prohibits stores from selling guns to people who, like Stewart, have a history of serious mental illness. Would-be buyers must fill out a form that asks about mental health. Stewart, who had been involuntarily committed to an institution and declared dangerously mentally ill by a judge, lied on that form, according to her mother's attorney's office. Wal-Mart ran a background check anyway, as required by federal law.