Students at risk for suicide asked to leave universities

The New York Times report, by Anemona Hartocollis, is here. In the background, legal incentives: universities often get sued for major sums after students commit suicide. No enrolled student status? No lawsuit exposure.

We have been covering this interplay of bad legal incentives since at least as far back as 2006, 2007 and 2009, and have reported on enough litigation in this area to have a tag for the issue of campus suicide.


  • I had a hospital transfer me by helicopter while comatose after having walked in under my own power… My best guess afterwards was that they didn’t want me dying on their watch. Particularly given that I told them in the ER that the symptoms I had appeared to match those of my father when he had bacterial endocarditis… They flew me out almost a week later, and the new hospital did some tests which they could have done, and amazingly, they determined that I did in fact have a case of bacterial endocarditis which had nearly killed me. Major injections of wide range antibiotics, and a valve replacement later and I was on the road to recovery. So, transferring me to where I actually got care was a good thing. Point? Maybe sending the student(s) somewhere that they might get the care/help they need may be beneficial in some cases. Although it’s not exactly the institution acting in anyone’s interest but its own.

  • While I am quite prepared to believe that universities act in part out of fear of litigation, in some cases suggesting that the student go home may have more benign motivations. When people are stressed, we often suggest that they take it easy, and in the case of students, take some time off from school. In some cases the universities may quite innocuously be doing the same thing.

  • Why is this not an ADA violation?

  • The problem of course is that “risk of suicide” is highly subjective. Who do you send home? How do you prove they are suicidal?
    As for the claims that they are being benevolent–I vote for CYA.