Woman who is victim of psychiatric malpractice.

Navigating the world of mental healthcare can be confusing. Unfortunately, for some it can lead to disastrous outcomes. Although most doctors have good intentions and DO help their patients, not every single one will. In some cases, doctors may even go so far as to harm those very patients. Psychiatric malpractice may not be as uncommon as you might think.

Take, for instance, a suicidal patient who isn’t kept on strict watch while hospitalized. Consider a therapist entering into a sexual relationship with a vulnerable client. Or what about a psychiatrist rushing through an appointment with a patient, missing potentially lethal drug interactions and mistakes?

Although we don’t want to think about it, mistakes–or outright malpractice–occur. And with it, very real consequences. Perhaps you see some of your own experience already, and you might be wondering–is there anything that can be done?

The answer is yes. Keep reading to learn more.

Woman dealing with depression.

What IS Psychiatric Malpractice?

First things first, let’s look at a simple definition of psychiatric malpractice. Malpractice occurs when a medical professional fails to exercise the degree of skill required by their expertise. Sound confusing? Don’t worry, we’ll dive into it a bit further.

Let’s set a base level. For a malpractice case to occur, a case must meet these four conditions:

      1. You must prove that a doctor-patient relationship exists.
      2. Evidence that the healthcare professional breached their duty of care to the patient has to be proven.
      3. There must be evidence that harm occurred to the patient.
      4. Harm to the patient is a result of the healthcare professional’s breach of duty.

That’s a little wordy, right? It’s a lot to take in, so let’s break it down into real-life examples. Psychiatric malpractice can occur in many forms, including the following examples:

Lack Of Boundaries

This one’s a doozy, and it can occur in many ways, especially when receiving psychiatric care. Mental healthcare is so personal and patients can be quite vulnerable. Unfortunately, the relationship between patient and provider can become messy. For example, a therapist might begin oversharing about their personal life with her client. To take it a step further, a therapist might enter into a sexual or romantic relationship with their patient. This is completely unethical. It’s crucial that mental healthcare providers maintain strict professional boundaries at all times. 

Negligence

Negligence is an issue in any healthcare setting, including mental healthcare. For suicidal patients, it’s especially vital that providers keep a close watch. Should a provider fail to notice any signs of worsening mental state, the results can be fatal. Yet another example of potential psychiatric malpractice. 

Issues With Diagnosis

Diagnosing mental illness can be difficult. Some patients may have multiple illnesses that make finding a clear diagnosis difficult. Many mental illnesses can’t be diagnosed with a simple test. Also, some doctors may lack the time and resources to dig deeper into a patient’s mental state. These problems can cause errors in diagnosis: misdiagnosis, a diagnosis given too late, or not diagnosing a condition at all. Any of these outcomes can induce harm to the patient.

Lack Of Informed Consent

Before beginning any form of treatment, a doctor must inform the patient of essential information. Some of that information might include: how the treatment works, what they hope to achieve, any risks, and more. A patient must give informed consent before the treatment begins. Should a doctor fail to receive informed consent, they’re putting the patient at risk.

Why Is Psychiatric Malpractice So Dangerous?

Issues of mental health are often private and quite difficult to take on, for a number of reasons. For some, their mental health issues make seeking out help a herculean task in the first place. For others, they may feel shame and embarrassment which can make it difficult to ask for help. And let’s not forget cost–psychiatric care is, for most, very expensive.

For these, and many other reasons, seeking out professional care takes courage. Patients place their trust in medical professionals to act in their best interests. Healthcare professionals have a duty to  provide the best care to their patients.

We can all agree it’s a major problem when healthcare fails us. Especially when a healthcare professional fails to provide a patient with good care. Let’s admit it, doctors and other medical professionals have tough jobs! They will make mistakes, and that’s understandable to some degree. Yet, the difficulty of their profession isn’t an excuse. There has to be accountability for negligence.

As patients, we tend to place a lot of trust in their care. This can put us in a vulnerable state. When instead of helping, they cause actual harm, we don’t have to suffer in silence.

Man takes legal action.

Steps To File A Psychiatric Malpractice Lawsuit

Pursuing justice in cases of psychiatric malpractice can be difficult and complicated. The good news is that you don’t have to go into this fight alone!

Here at Hampton & King, we have the expertise and the skills to guide you through this process. If you or a loved one has suffered due to psychiatric malpractice, you don’t have to suffer alone. Contact Hampton & King to set up a free consultation for your case. Don’t wait, call us today.