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Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2006 Sep;29(3):615-28.

Psychiatry malpractice and administrative inquiries of alleged physician misconduct.

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  • 1Forensic Psychiatry, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 185 Pilgrim Road, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Practicing psychiatrists face a range of professional liability from malpractice litigation and from inquiries and hearings conducted by health care agencies. The causes of an action and the standards by which physician conduct is measured vary widely between these two processes. Many psychiatrists do not appreciate sufficiently the gravity of the risks they may face from an administrative sanction. Understanding the legal and administrative expectations of practicing psychiatrists serves practitioners' professional risk management. Those psychiatrists who choose to participate as expert witnesses for courts or administrative agencies need to familiarize themselves with the applicable legal standards and the respective roles of experts in these two different settings. The courts and administrative agencies have different social missions and correspondingly differing expectations of the expert opinions admitted.An expert's function as educator about the application of psychiatric knowledge and treatments to legal contexts is optimized when that expert clearly understands the function of the opinion that is sought. As educators about special knowledge to the adjudicating body, experts are advocates for their objectively generated and scientifically grounded opinion. Psychiatry is increasingly under the purview of regulations from multiple sources private and public. This article has reviewed medicolegal concepts and terms of psychiatrists' exposure to liability from a comparative point of view. Familiarity assists psychiatrists in navigating the complex legal arena in which they practice and provides a foundation for psychiatrists to work to change the multitude of laws and regulations when doing so is in the best interests of their patients and of their discipline of medicine.

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