Parents Sue University Of Penn, Alleging Negligence In Student Suicide

Ian Bush
April 10, 2018 - 8:58 pm
Olivia Kong

Photo provided by family of Olivia Kong

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- Parents of a young woman who killed herself two years ago while she was a student at the University of Pennsylvania have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the school, claiming no one came to the aid of the Wharton junior despite her multiple attempts to get help.

Over a three-day span, it was a disturbing refrain from 21-year-old Olivia Kong and others concerned about her to officials at Penn.

"Nine descriptions of thoughts of suicide documented," explains Kong family attorney Carol Nelson Shepherd. "And, she says, 'I'm going to come back to Penn on Sunday night and kill myself.'"

But according to Shepherd, even the on-call psychiatrist failed to act on that specific threat.

"When she was fretting about the cost and what the logistics were of going to the hospital, the psychiatrist reassured her that the cost of an ER visit would be less than the cost of her funeral," she says.

Shepherd notes Penn policy demands confidentiality be breached if a student is a risk to herself or others.

The university won't comment on the lawsuit, which seeks monetary damages and -- after more than a dozen similar deaths this decade -- changes in how Penn responds to mental health issues.

"To stem the tide of these student suicides and the loss of all these talented young people," Shepherd says.