With so much of the world shut down and isolated during the coronavirus pandemic, experts have warned of a possible mental health crisis on the horizon. If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health or emotional issues, a psychiatrist may be able to help. Tragically, not all psychiatrists are deserving of the trust that their patients place in them. Those who fail to live up to their professional obligations may be liable for medical malpractice. Hale & Monico is here to explore your legal options.
Psychiatrists owe a duty of reasonable care to their patients. That means they are legally obligated to conduct themselves in a manner that meets the high standards of their profession. Another way of putting it is that a psychiatrist has to act as a reasonable mental health professional would, given the same or similar circumstances.
What Constitutes as Psychiatric Malpractice?
But this doesn’t always happen. Depending on the case, these and other actions may constitute psychiatric malpractice:
- Failure to diagnose a mental or emotional disorder. A patient must be carefully evaluated to determine if they suffer from a mental illness or emotional problem. If the psychiatrist fails to do so, the patient will continue to suffer and possibly harm him- or herself or others.
- Medication errors. Psychiatrists have the power to prescribe medications that can alleviate their patients’ conditions. Failure to do so, or failure to prescribe the correct medication or dosage, could have catastrophic consequences.
- Breaches of confidentiality. Medical professionals, including psychiatrists, are obligated to keep patient information in confidence. Sharing details about a patient’s condition with others is malpractice, but so is failure to practice reasonable safeguards to prevent the inadvertent exposure of this information to third parties.
- Sexual misconduct. In some of the most egregious cases of malpractice, the psychiatrist or other professional commits sexual crimes such as assault. Or the psychiatrist may attempt to exploit the sensitive doctor-patient relationship to coerce the patient into sexual relations. These forms of malpractice are intolerable and may be crimes.
It’s not always easy to determine that a psychiatrist has committed malpractice. Often, it takes observation or intervention by a concerned family member or friend. If you suspect that a loved one is being abused or neglected in some way by their mental health professional, contact a medical malpractice attorney immediately.
Here’s How You Can Protect Yourself
If you are a patient, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself from becoming a victim of malpractice:
- Always ask questions, and don’t be afraid to ask them several times until you understand what the psychiatrist is doing or prescribing
- Keep your own private notes after each session with your psychiatrist
- Follow the instructions of any medications you are prescribed, and follow up with your mental health professional about them
- Keep in touch with trusted family members and communicate with them about your experiences to the extent you are comfortable doing so
At Hale & Monico, we want you and your family member to get the help they need, especially in such challenging times as these. But if a psychiatrist has failed you in some way, reach out to our compassionate and dedicated team today.