What Is Psychiatric Malpractice?

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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 19 February 2020
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Psychiatric malpractice is a specific type of medical malpractice that takes place during psychiatric treatment. For a patient to accuse a psychiatrist of this kind of wrongdoing, he must show he was directly harmed as a result of the practitioner's negligence. While many patients complain of mental or emotional harm caused by psychiatrists, some also are physically hurt, so the types of cases tend to vary. Practitioners may get in trouble for their actions, but it can be just as common for them to be accused of harming patients through a lack of action.

Patients may be tempted to claim psychiatric malpractice when they have been humiliated or inconvenienced by their psychiatrist. This type of lawsuit, however, must include several factors to be deemed valid, which can make it difficult to prove any wrongdoing. For example, patients must provide evidence of a doctor-patient relationship so they can show the practitioner breached the duty of reasonable care that is expected of all doctors. Once records show proof of this relationship, patients need to provide evidence that they were harmed in some way, either physically or emotionally. While medical records may easily prove the patient incurred some type of physical or emotional damage, it often is difficult to show the doctor directly caused it, because there usually are other factors that could have been responsible.


Just as in general medical malpractice cases, practitioners often are accused of psychiatric malpractice after their actions cause harm to patients. One common example is the administration of the wrong type of psychiatric medication, or perhaps the incorrect dosage, which may result in mental or physical problems. Misdiagnosing patients and leading them to believe they have a particular mental illness also can result in a psychiatric malpractice case. Additionally, recommending therapy that results in the condition getting worse can lead to a lawsuit for the practitioner.

In some cases, patients who claim malpractice are upset that a psychiatrist did not treat them at all, which can be just as devastating as a misdiagnosis or other mistakes. For instance, a patient whose doctor claimed there was nothing wrong and sent him away without a diagnosis or treatment may be upset when his condition gets worse. Similarly, a patient who needs medication to control his mental state may initiate a psychiatric malpractice lawsuit when his doctor refuses to prescribe the pills he needs, provided this lack of action leads to harm.


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Post 3

My brother asked for more medication at one of his psychiatrist's visits. He was receiving sedatives intravenously on a regular basis. The doctor knew that he had taken the highest possible dose of the medication (said so himself) but gave it to my brother anyway. Soon after, my brother had a seizure and was hospitalized for several days.

Is this considered psychiatric malpractice?

Post 2

@ZipLine-- I'm not a lawyer and I have no idea how your psychiatrist neglected his duties, so I can't comment on your situation specifically. You should speak with a lawyer about your case.

But as far as I know, when a professional, like a psychiatrists is negligent, he or she is also taking part in malpractice. Negligence can be unintentional, but when a professional does it, it's almost always considered intentional and the charge will be for malpractice. The reason for this is because the duties of a doctor is clearly defined by law.

In a malpractice case, it has to be proved that the doctor neglected his duties, his duties do not have to be proven. But

in a negligence case, the person's duties also have to be proven.

In your case, since the person who was negligent is a doctor, his duties do not have to be proven. He can technically be charged with malpractice. Whether it can be proven that he neglected his duties, is a whole other issue.

Post 1

What's the difference between psychiatric negligence and psychiatric malpractice?

My psychiatrist neglected his duties and I want to take him to court. Will he be charged with negligence or malpractice?

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