Reese, 27, was transsexual and preferred his identity as a woman: Sonya Michelle. As a man, he served prison time in his late teens after molesting a younger boy. By the time he entered SummitRidge Hospital in Lawrenceville, friends say, he was intent on taking his own life, and on Sept. 24 he hanged himself with a sheet from his hospital bed.
State officials will investigate whether mistakes by the hospital enabled Reese’s suicide. But their conclusions, and even how they conduct their inquiry, may remain forever confidential.
Reese’s death highlights a curious facet of hospital regulation in Georgia, according to an examination by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In an increasingly transparent era in health care, such data as the incidence of post-surgery infections and heart attack survival rates flood the Internet. Georgia, however, has tightened the secrecy surrounding some of the worst mistakes that occur in hospitals: patient suicides, sexual assaults and surgical errors.