Factors That Constitute Psychiatric Malpractice

When people seek psychiatric care, they are often at their most vulnerable. While the majority of psychiatrists act in good faith and do their best for their patients, sometimes, doctors act in ways that actually cause their patients physical or emotional harm. When that occurs, psychiatrists can and should be held accountable in a court of law. Not only does filing a malpractice suit help the victim and their family members, it may prevent future patients from being harmed as well. While there are a variety of ways that patients may be harmed, here are some of the most common.

Failure to Prevent a Suicide

Psychiatrists are trained to be able to understand the complex workings of the human psyche, and because of that, they are expected to know when their patients are suicidal, even if the patient makes no overt threats. Bereaved family members may consider filing a claim against the doctor if it can be shown that the doctor should have been able to determine the patient's risk and acted negligently in not providing treatment. This kind of malpractice suit can result in awards for both the financial and emotional losses experienced by the remaining family members. 

Violation of the Trust Relationship

Often times, violation of trust involves the doctor forming an inappropriate sexual relationship with a patient. There is no acceptable reason for a doctor to engage in a romantic or sexual relationship with a patient, ever. Whether the client consents to a relationship is irrelevant; as the person in the position of power, the doctor is bound by his oath not to take advantage of patients in this manner. While sexual exploitation may be the most common reason for malpractice suits of this kind, there are other ways that doctors can damage the trust relationship with the client. Disclosing information to a third party without the patient's consent is another serious concern and may be grounds for a malpractice suit if the patient was harmed by this disclosure. Another way that psychiatrists may blur the boundary of the doctor/client relationship is through excessive self-disclosure, which can inhibit the patient's treatment progress. For this type of scenario to be considered for a malpractice suit, the patient would have to have been harmed by the self-revelations of the doctor.

Failure to Disclose Intent to Harm

Although psychiatrists, like other medical doctors, are held to high standards of patient confidentiality, there are times that it is appropriate and necessary for a doctor to share information learned in a therapy session. This is true when a patient discloses an intent to harm someone else. Doctors must warm the intended victims of their patients, as well as do their utmost to prevent the patient from carrying out their plan. If someone is hurt or killed by a patient and the doctor can be shown to be negligent, then there are likely grounds for a malpractice suite.

These are just a few of the many complex reasons that a psychiatrist may be found guilty of malpractice. If you or someone you love believes that they have been harmed in this type of scenario, talking with an attorney who is familiar with mental health medical malpractice help may be the most prudent course of action. They can examine the facts and make a determination about the viability of your specific case.