COMMENTARY

Malpractice Dangers for Psychiatrists

O. Brandt Caudill, Jr, Esq

Disclosures

December 29, 2009

In This Article

Emergency Accessibility Can Create a Problem

Another potential malpractice issue involves lack of emergency accessibility. One of my more tragic cases involved a psychiatrist who was treating a very talented young woman who left a message on the psychiatrists' answering machine stating that she had taken an overdose of medication to kill herself but had changed her mind and wanted to live.

Because this call was after hours, the psychiatrists didn't hear the message until after the patient was dead. This attempt was before the prevalence of cell phones, but it raised a question of how accessible a psychiatrist is supposed to be to a patient who may be experiencing a crisis, and was a factor in the case settling.

If a psychiatrist doesn't want to leave emergency contact information on a voicemail, then he or she needs to be sure the patients know what options exist for them in an emergency.

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