Malpractice Lawyers in Baltimore: The Special Challenges of Psychiatric Malpractice

Mental illness is an illness just like any other — and yet, malpractice claims against psychiatrists (who are medical doctors) and other psychiatric health professionals often present challenges that set them apart from other medical malpractice actions. There are special considerations in psychiatric malpractice that must be made on the legal and personal levels. Consider the following:

  • Communication. A doctor who gives medical advice by phone without physically examining the patient is almost certainly breaching standards of care. But psychiatric counseling is one of the few areas in which treatment may depend on telephone contact, for instance in cases of suicide prevention.
  • Privacy. In virtually all medical malpractice lawsuits, plaintiffs automatically waive their right to privacy and confidentiality by filing the suit. This may not matter so much when you are publicly discussing your broken arm, but despite efforts by mental health advocates to eliminate the stigma of mental illness, most people are not as comfortable airing their mental problems.
  • Third-party impact. Generally, lapses in medical treatment only affect patients and their families. But a psychiatric professional can be held liable if an inadequately supervised patient causes harm to another person.
  • Treatment without consent. Informed consent — the question of whether the patient knowingly consented to a particular treatment — is the basis of many medical malpractice lawsuits. However, psychiatric practitioners often need to take action, such as use of physical restraints, without patient consent.
  • Diagnosis. Psychiatry may be the only medical field in which the diagnosis sometimes depends entirely on the behavior and verbal input of the patient. In the absence of the kind of objective diagnostic technology available for other conditions, it can be difficult to prove that a practitioner failed to make the correct diagnosis given the information at hand.

If you are considering filing a claim against a psychiatrist, it’s essential you work with a lawyer who understands the subtle nuances that distinguish these claims from other medical malpractice cases. Talk to the skilled malpractice lawyers in Baltimore at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton, P.A. about the particulars of your case to see if they are right for you.