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Psychiatric patients also at risk for medical malpractice


Mental health is an important piece of a person's overall health. Thousands of Pittsburgh residents take some sort of psychiatric medicine-for depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder and a host of other conditions. These medications and the care that medical providers provide are critical in maintaining a person's mental health. But when medical providers fail to diagnose a patient with mental illness, prescribes the wrong medication or engages in other negligent behavior, a medical provider can be held liable.

There are many reasons why a psychiatrist can be held liable for a patient with mental illness. One way is with a suicidal patient. If the psychiatrist does not perform a suicide risk assessment on a patient, if they don't follow up with a suicidal patient, don't change the level of supervision for patients that are deemed suicidal, fails to evaluate the suicidal patient's environment, or doesn't respond to a suicidal patient's family when they contact the psychiatrist with concerns.

Other instances where a psychiatrist can be held accountable include prescribing lithium without doing the proper testing and monitoring, misdiagnosing a condition that can lead to delayed treatment, not warning a person if they have a credible threat against them and not maintaining a professional boundary.

Mental health professionals have a complicated relationship with their patients. There are many aspects to mental health that can muddle the circumstances; psychiatrists need to maintain their professional reputation and make sure they are providing the best care possible for their patients. If a person believes that they have been the victim of medical malpractice as the result of their psychiatrist they may want to discuss their concerns with a legal professional skilled in medical malpractice.

Source: Psychiatry MMC, "What Puts a Psychiatrist at Risk for a Malpractice Lawsuit?" Aug. 2009

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