Psychiatric Malpractice

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The Psychiatric Malpractice:

Psychiatric Malpractice


Psychiatric malpractice occurs when a patient becomes the victim of their psychiatrist’s neglect or abuse.  [1]


  • Psychiatrists can be wonderful resources for people who are experiencing any mental problems such as depression, anxiety, feelings of stress or sadness, or after any kind of conflict.
  • They are able to prevent, diagnose, and treat mental illnesses to help their patients in every aspect of their lives.
  • Seeking treatment from a psychiatrist is increasing in popularity now that mental health awareness has increased and people are realizing the benefits.
  • Moreover, Millions of people are finding great success with psychiatric treatment each year and experiencing the benefits.
  • Unfortunately, there is also a large group of people who have been mistreated by the people they thought would help them.
  • That is when a psychiatric malpractice case occurs and it is time to seek advice from a medical expert.
  • Besides this, Medical experts work with patients who believe they have experienced psychiatric malpractice to prove in court that they were mistreat by their psychiatrist. [1]
  • The psychiatrist-patient relationship is one of the most intensely personal in the field of professional health care.
  • As a result, a psychiatrist’s errors or missteps in treatment can carry significant consequences for patients.  [2]

As with all medical malpractice claims, psychiatric patients must prove each aspect of medical negligence in order to successfully seek compensation.

Those elements include:

  1. A doctor-patient relationship existed.
  2. The psychiatrist acted in a negligent manner by breaching the duty of reasonable care.
  3. The patient endured a either physical or mental injury.
  4. A proximate link between the negligence and the patient’s injury can demonstrate. [3]

Abuse of Power:

  • There are several ways that a psychiatrist could possibly abuse their power also cause harm to their patient.
  • A few examples of abuse of power include sharing information without patient consent, threatening the patient, and physical abuse.
  • Doctors are mean to do everything they can to help their patients and should never use their status or power for anything other than helping. [1]

Exploitation of Trust:

  • As doctors, psychiatrists are expect to maintain their professionalism during all encounters with their patients.
  • That means that patients should never give a reason to doubt the relationship that is between themselves and their doctor.
  • Confidentiality should strictly maintain and no boundaries should ever cross in order to maintain the professional relationship that takes place between the doctor and the patient. [1]
  • If the psychiatrist’s conduct fails to meet that standard and causes harm to the patient, the psychiatrist will liable for that harm.
  • This can be true even if the patient consented to a sexual relationship.
  • The harm in this situation can come in many forms.
  • The most common form is emotional harm resulting from a breach of trust. [2]

Failure to prevent a patient’s suicide:

  • If a psychiatrist knows that a patient is at risk for dying by suicide, they have a responsibility to take every step they can to prevent it.
  • This may put a great deal of pressure on the profession.
  • But they are educated health professionals that are trained in the field of mental health and that means they should be equipped with the proper techniques, treatment plans, and medications to handle the situation.
  • Failure to do so could result in a tragedy for the patient as well as for the psychiatrist’s career. [1]

False Repressed Memories:

  • Recovered memory therapy is a common treatment for doctors to use on patients and help them through current struggles.
  • However, if a false memory is reveal to a patient as an authentic memory, psychiatrist’s run the risk of entering a medical malpractice case.
  • The false memory would have to prove by methods in court. [1]

Improper diagnosis.:

  • Just like medical care, psychiatrists make diagnoses regarding mental health conditions.
  • When psychiatrists make incorrect diagnoses, the patient may not get necessary treatment and their condition could significantly worsen. [3]

Improper Prescriptions:

  • In order for a psychiatric malpractice case regarding improper prescriptions to be relevant, it had to have been the doctor who made the mistake.
  • Additionally, Cases where the pharmacist or the drug manufacturing company neglected to deliver the correct medication are not the same as a medical malpractice case.
  • If a psychiatrist prescribed a medication that ended up actually causing a patient harm, additionally it is likely that a psychiatric malpractice Case is in order. [1]
  • When psychiatrists prescribe medication, they must ensure that their prescriptions are accurate.
  • Not only must they prescribe the correct medication, but they must also make certain that the dosage is accurate and appropriate for the patient. [3]

Warning a third party of threats:

  • Though doctor-patient confidentiality applies to the psychiatric relationship, the law requires psychiatrists to report certain dangers, including circumstances where a patient has made a credible threat to the health and safety of a third party.
  • For example, a psychiatric patient reveals a plot to murder a neighbour.
  • The psychiatrist does not report the threat to law enforcement and the patient attempts to carry out his plan, resulting in serious injury to the neighbour.
  • The psychiatrist may be liable for medical malpractice under this scenario. [3]

Engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a client:

  • Psychiatrists must maintain strictly professional relationships with their patients.
  • When they fail to establish boundaries and cross the line of appropriateness, vulnerable patients can be mentally and physically injured.
  • An article in psychology today expressly lists sexual relationships between psychiatrists and patients as grounds for a malpractice claim. [3]

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Psychiatric Malpractice?

Psychiatric malpractice occurs when a patient becomes the victim of their psychiatrist’s neglect or abuse.

What are the 4 elements of Psychiatric Malpractice?

  1. A doctor-patient relationship existed.
  2. The psychiatrist acted in a negligent manner by breaching the duty of reasonable care.
  3. The patient endured a either physical or mental injury.
  4. A proximate link between the negligence also the patient’s injury can demonstrate.

What is an example of Psychiatric Malpractice?

  • Abuse of Power
  • Exploitation of Trust
  • Failure to prevent a patient’s suicide
  • False Repressed Memories
  • Improper diagnosis
  • Improper Prescriptions
  • Warning a third party of threats


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