Local NewsDoctor's psychotic episode leads him to drive his family off a cliff

Doctor's psychotic episode leads him to drive his family off a cliff

The doctor threw himself off the cliff with a car
The doctor threw himself off the cliff with a car
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11:17 AM EDT, April 29, 2024

An American doctor recently took a chilling step, driving his car off a nearly 262-foot cliff with his family inside. Amid a psychotic episode, he believed his children were at risk of falling prey to sex traffickers.

The toll of mental health challenges on life quality can be profound. For those battling depression, routine activities like washing one’s hair can feel as daunting as scaling Mount Everest. Individuals experiencing manic episodes in bipolar disorder may feel invincible, pushing them towards perilous choices. Meanwhile, those with paranoid schizophrenia might be convinced by voices to engage in dangerous behaviors.

The doctor's harrowing drive off a cliff

This unnerving incident has resurfaced in American media discussions since January 2, 2023, when a 43-year-old doctor plunged off a California cliff in his car. Remarkably, his wife, 7-year-old daughter, and 4-year-old son survived the nearly 262-foot fall. Dr. Dharmesh Patel, a radiologist of Indian descent, was grappling with a profound mental health crisis, exacerbated by global events like the war in Ukraine, the American opioid crisis, especially regarding fentanyl, and the ongoing revelations about Jeffrey Epstein. These pressures led Patel to believe his children were in danger from sex traffickers.

After the accident, Neha Patel, his wife, revealed to investigators that her husband had expressed suicidal thoughts and had intentionally driven off the cliff.

Expert psychological testimony in Patel's case

Facing three counts of attempted murder, Dr. Patel's criminal trial is unfolding. At a hearing on April 24th, psychiatrists Mark Patterson and James Armontrout provided their insights. They conveyed that Patel was in the grips of a "severe psychotic episode" during the incident and diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia. However, they did not identify depression as a factor.

Dr. Patel has proposed halting the criminal proceedings to seek psychiatric treatment, suggesting a two-year therapeutic program. Should he not re-offend or breach any conditions in this period, the charges may be dismissed.

Prosecutors, however, are skeptical of this proposition, questioning its efficacy. San Mateo County District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe expressed concern: "If he stops taking his medication, how would we be alerted? It's not equivalent to probation or conditional release."

Wagstaffe highlights concerns for the future safety of Dr. Patel's family and others, questioning how the proposed treatment plan adequately ensures ongoing monitoring post-treatment.

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