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Can a Psychiatrist Be Held Liable for Medical Malpractice?

February 5, 2024

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Medical malpractice is often associated with surgeons, general practitioners, and other medical doctors who deal with physical ailments.

However, there are many other types of medical doctors, including those who primarily deal with psychological ailments. Psychiatrists are medical professionals who specialize in mental health, and just like other types of doctors, they can make mistakes that can harm their patients.

Does that mean they can also be held liable for medical malpractice? This is a crucial question for patients in Ohio seeking psychiatric treatment, as the implications of malpractice in mental health can be just as severe as in physical health.

Understanding Medical Malpractice

Before jumping into the specifics of psychiatry, it's important to understand what constitutes medical malpractice. Generally, medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional deviates from the accepted standards of care in the medical community, causing injury or harm to a patient. This definition can be applied to a wide range of medical practitioners, including psychiatrists.

What Standards of Care are Psychiatrists Required to Meet?

Psychiatrists, like other doctors, are expected to adhere to a high standard of care. This standard includes accurately diagnosing mental health conditions, prescribing appropriate medications, and providing proper treatment and follow-up. Failure to meet these standards, whether through negligence, incorrect diagnosis, or improper treatment, could potentially lead to them being held liable for medical malpractice.

What Are Examples of a Psychiatrist Committing Medical Malpractice?

A psychiatrist could misdiagnose a severe mental health condition like bipolar disorder in a patient as mild depression. This misdiagnosis could lead to the patient receiving inadequate treatment, which could then lead to their condition worsening over time. Because bipolar disorder and others like it can have significant negative effects on daily life, the patient could end up suffering profoundly because of the misdiagnosis.

In another example, a psychiatrist may prescribe medication without considering a patient’s medical history, resulting in harmful side effects or interactions. For example, some antidepressants can be dangerous for patients, as they can cause conditions like serotonin syndrome when combined with other medications. In other cases, psychiatrists may prescribe patients an antidepressant or sleep aid that they are allergic to.

How Do Medical Malpractice Laws Work in Ohio?

To sue a psychiatrist for medical malpractice in Ohio, a patient must navigate a specific legal process. The patient must first establish that the psychiatrist had a duty of care towards them, which is a standard element in any doctor-patient relationship.

Following this, the patient needs to demonstrate that the psychiatrist breached this duty of care by failing to adhere to the standard practices accepted in the psychiatric community. This could involve misdiagnosis, improper treatment, or negligence. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can help identify breaches of duty of care.

The most important part of the lawsuit involves proving that this breach of duty directly caused harm or injury to the patient. This harm can be physical, psychological, or a combination of both. It’s not enough to show that the psychiatrist made a mistake. Instead, the patient must demonstrate that this error resulted in actual damage.

Finally, it’s vital to remember that medical malpractice claims are subject to a one-year statute of limitations in Ohio. This means the lawsuit must be filed within 365 days after the injury or harm occurred, or after the patient discovered or should have discovered the harm. Missing this window can result in the loss of the right to sue.

What Makes Psychiatric Medical Malpractice Claims Difficult to Prove?

Psychiatric medical malpractice claims present unique challenges that can make them more difficult compared to other types of medical malpractice cases, especially when patients try to get compensation on their own. One of the primary reasons is the nature of psychiatric treatment itself.

Unlike other medical fields, where diagnosis and treatment often rely on objective tests and visible symptoms, psychiatry depends on interpreting patients' descriptions of their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, which can be subjective and vary widely from one patient to another.

Another complicating factor is the standard of care in psychiatry, which can be less specifically defined and more varied than in other medical fields. The psychiatric community may have differing opinions about the best treatment approach for a particular condition, making it harder to establish a clear standard of care and any deviations from it.

Contact our Ohio Medical Malpractice Lawyers for a Free Consultation

If you believe you or a loved one is a victim of psychiatric medical malpractice in Ohio, it’s important to seek legal assistance from an experienced Ohio medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. Psychiatric conditions need accurate diagnoses and effective treatment just as much as physical conditions; when patients don’t get the care they need, they can suffer serious harm.

The legal team at Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy is ready to help you or loved one through this difficult time. If your needs weren’t met by your psychiatrist, they should be held liable for their failure. Contact us today for a free case review.

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