The relationship between a patient and their psychiatrist can be a deeply personal and emotional one. The patient who feels a real connection with his or her psychiatrist often confides in them with their deepest and darkest feelings.
If the patient is harmed due to the psychiatrist’s error or poor treatment, it is possible that the psychiatrist may be sued for medical malpractice.
According to FindLaw:
“Like any other medical professional, psychiatrists owe their patients a certain standard of care. They can be at fault for medical malpractice if they fail to meet that standard.”
Below are some situations when a patient may have legal ground to sue his or her psychiatrist:
- Improper prescriptions. If the psychiatrist prescribes the wrong type or dosage of a medication and it causes the patient harm or death, there is grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Having the license to prescribe medications is not something to be taken lightly and the doctor must make certain they are accurately prescribing the proper medication to each patient.
- Not reporting a threat. An example of this would be if the patient told the psychiatrist they were having serious thoughts of killing themselves or someone else and then the individual actually follows through with it. Knowledge of this information can be used against a doctor if they did not inform authorities. This is a very difficult situation for the psychiatrist because technically police should be notified, but there is also a confidentiality issue. However, the family of the victim could sue the psychiatrist for withholding this information.
- Exploiting the doctor-patient trust relationship. The psychiatrist must be careful not to cross boundaries. For example, engaging in a sexual relationship with the patient and taking advantage of their vulnerability would be considered exploitation. The psychiatrist’s job is to remain professional and help the patient, rather than cause them further emotional harm.
So in short, yes a psychiatrist or mental health professional can be sued for medical malpractice in certain situations. The plaintiff must prove there was a patient/psychiatrist relationship, that the psychiatrist was negligent, and they were harmed (emotionally, physically, financially, etc.) as a result of this negligence.
If you or anyone you know has been taken advantage of or harmed by their psychiatrist, seeking legal advice from a medical malpractice attorney may be highly beneficial.