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Medical Malpractice and Psychiatry: Advocating For the Rights of the Mentally Ill Patient

by David Zevan on Dec. 03, 2013

Accident & Injury Medical Malpractice Accident & Injury  Wrongful Death Health Care  Health Care Other 

Summary: When a loved one is placed in a mental health care facility, we expect them to be given the best care possible. Patients who are mental ill require certain level of attention and care. When that standard of care is not met, it may constitute negligence.

Mental health facilities are responsible for the care and well being of its patients the same way hospitals are.  They are expected to follow a standard of care, and when that care is deviated from, the patient suffers.  Mentally ill patients can be further traumatized by their psychiatrists’ negligence and develop fears of seeking help or become suicidal.  When dealing with these types of cases it is important to understand the delicacy of the plaintiff and work towards a resolution that will allow him to seek further treatment from a more competent mental health specialist.  If you have a loved one who committed suicide, or developed additional mental issues as a result of his treatment in a mental health facility talk over the details of his treatment with a medical malpractice attorney.  Too often this type of claim goes unnoticed when a patients’ mental state is too unstable to be taken seriously.

In an institutional setting such as a mental health in-patient hospital, the doctors and staff have to duty to properly supervise their patients.  Unlike a regular hospital, patients in a mental health facility often have the ability to walk around and interact with other patients and staff.  In a situation where a patient is known to have suicidal tendencies, extra care should be taken to monitor his movements and progress.  Staff should be aware of his fragile condition and treat him accordingly.  A Missouri teenager lost her father when he committed suicide while an in-patient at a mental health facility.  He had a history of past suicide attempts and was being treated for severe depression.  The events leading up to the mans death were captured on video, and not only was the young girl given a $775,000 settlement, the care workers involved were terminated from employment.

The courts can determine negligence on the part of a psychiatrist or facility for a variety of reasons, some similar to other medical malpractice and others unique to the treatment of mental health diseases. 

Just like a physician, it is the duty of a psychiatrist to obtain a complete history of the patient and make an appropriate diagnosis.  Missing a key element or symptom may cause a patient to receive treatment not relevant to his condition.  His actual illness could be exacerbated by such a misdiagnosis.  Prescribing the wrong medication or dosage to treat a mental health disorder is also a common mistake among psychiatrists.  Not every drug interacts the same with every patient, and it is important to monitor closely to ensure that the patient does not respond to a new medication adversely.  A psychiatrist is also expected to be able to assess a patients risk of harming themselves or others.  Any one of these errors can be avoided using the known standard of care. 

Medical Malpractice Lawyers

Patients who need the help of a psychiatrist are more vulnerable and, in some cases, unstable.  They need a system that they can trust and that will provide them with care, keeping them out of harms way.  A psychiatrist has a duty to be both reassuring and reasonable with their patients.  If not, he or she may be at fault for any damages that occur.  If you believe that your own, or a family members mental health was further jeopardized by the care of a psychiatrist bring your claim to the attention of a qualified medical malpractice attorney.

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