When Psychiatric Malpractice Occurs
Psychiatric malpractice occurs when either professional engages in misconduct infringing upon the care of the patient in treatment. Additionally, malpractice can result from neglect or the failure to provide professional treatment in the context of the therapeutic relationship.
Different forms of misconduct or neglect may include:
- Failure to evaluate and diagnosis the patient
- Improper treatment protocols implemented as interventions for the patient or failure to treat
- Medication mishaps, such as prescribing the wrong medication for the diagnosis given
- Engaging in physical, verbal, emotional or mental abuse toward the patient
- Infringing upon the privacy of the patient or breaching confidentiality standards
- Engaging in sexual relations with the patient or attempting to commit sexual acts with the patient
- Detaining the patient involuntarily without proper cause
Liability of Mental Health Professionals for Patient Suicide
One of the worst outcomes of negligent mental health care is patient suicide. If a patient’s suicide is related to a mental health professional’s negligent care or treatment of the patient, the mental health professional may be liable for the patient’s death.
Types of misconduct or neglect that might lead to patient suicide may include:
- Failure to recognize warning signs of suicidal behavior.
- Failure to properly monitor a patient who demonstrates warning signs of suicidal behavior.
- Premature release of a patient undergoing a mental health evaluation or treatment.
Psychiatrists and psychotherapist’s have specific ethical codes to uphold. The business of healing intangible illness of the mental capacity requires extremely cautious boundaries and following specific guidelines of the profession to maintain the code to “do no harm.” Many with mental health needs are placed in precarious positions that can become life-threatening for the individual or those around. Any breach in the ethical codes of the psychiatric professional can have lifelong, often devastating consequences.