Mental health care facilities are psychiatric institutions which serve the needs of individuals experiencing severe mental, behavioral, or emotional disorders. These facilities often provide residential as well as hospital inpatient and outpatient services. Due to factors such as patient residency and the vulnerability of patients, problematic patient care, if it occurs, can be both deeply serious and perpetuated unnoticed.
When a healthcare provider in any field neglects the standard of care and injures the patient as a result, there has been an incident of medical malpractice. Standard of care, in this usage, refers to the level of skill and attention that it is expected would be offered by the average doctor in this particular situation. While this can be a difficult term to explicitly define, doctors who act outside of the expected and recognized norms of medical care can be shown to be in disregard of the accepted standard. In short, the harm you sustained would not have happened under another physician’s care. Under these circumstances, a victim is well within their rights to bring legal charges against the healthcare provider.
What does medical malpractice look like when applied to the field of mental health? Our team at Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC is aware of the complicated nature of mental health practice, and the sensitive relationship that exists between patients and mental healthcare providers. We take a personalized, conscientious, and compassionate approach when partnering with clients and their loved ones who have experienced mental health malpractice. By examining mental health malpractice and the legal action that can be taken against it, we strive to provide empowerment through information to individuals you have experienced harm due to the actions of a negligent mental health facility.
Understanding Mental Health Malpractice
Causes of improper or inadequate care, whether a product of negligence or intent to harm, are widely varied. Issues contributing to malpractice may include miscommunication, understaffing, lack of administration, employee fatigue, substandard hiring practices, insufficient training, substance abuse, or other factors.
While the following is by no means not a comprehensive list of all possible types of malpractice, these examples may be more likely to occur in mental health facilities:
- Misdiagnosis. The occurrence of misdiagnosis in mental health is notoriously prevalent. Misdiagnosis is distinctly dangerous in that it can both prevent proper treatment and worsen the root condition.
- Lack of informed consent. In order for a patient to give consent to a procedure, they must be fully informed of relevant data, risks and benefits, and available alternatives. It is legally required in all 50 states that informed consent be obtained and documented.
- Failure to treat. Delayed, insufficient, or nonexistent treatment of mental health problems can cause serious consequences and result in harm to the patient or others.
- Risky or experimental treatment. If a physician does not stay at the forefront of emerging medical information, or administers experimental treatment options based on limited data, the patient may suffer severe harm. Failure to monitor a patient who has been prescribed a powerful medication can also lead to physical or psychiatric damage.
- Unprofessional or inappropriate relationships. Violating the professional boundaries of a patient-caregiver relationship can take on many forms. In a residential facility it is especially important to be vigilant in watching for signs of inappropriate behavior of staff toward patients.
- Physical or emotional abuse. Victimization of people with mental illness is a very serious concern. If you suspect a patient in a mental health care facility may be a victim of abuse, seek outside help immediately.
- Breaching confidentiality. Unless confidential information is disclosed for the explicit purpose of protecting the patient or others, a breach of doctor-patient confidentiality can be an instance of medical malpractice.
- Improper use of restraints. The inappropriate use of physical restraint, restraining devices, or seclusion in mental health care can be dangerous and harmful to patients and their caregivers.
- Failed duty to suicidal patients. If a mental health care facility fails in its duty to notice and reports warning signs of risk, appropriately monitor a suicidal patient, provide a safe environment, and prevent self-harm, the institution may be held responsible for the death of a patient.
The lawyers at Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC are proficient and experienced in mental health patient rights. If you believe you or a loved one suffered mistreatment, we will work hard to find out which rights were violated and take appropriate action.
Taking Legal Action
Under circumstances of malpractice, it is the right of the victimized individual to seek legal recourse. Our team can support you through the process of loss recovery for yourself or a loved one. To build a medical malpractice case, your lawyer will work with you to establish these four essential points:
- There was a healthcare provider-patient relationship that owed a duty of care.
- The healthcare provider was negligent and failed to meet the standard of care.
- The patient was harmed by the negligence.
- The patient suffered loss and damage as a result of the harm.
There are many other factors which can make malpractice cases extremely complex. Our team is knowledgeable of these factors and well-prepared to give your claim the best chance of success. Victims of malpractice may be entitled to compensation for damages. Compensation can be divided into the general categories of economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damage is directly related to the financial loss suffered as a result of malpractice and can include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Future loss of income
Non-economic damage is not as clearly definable as economic damage, but can be even more detrimental to the wellbeing of you or your loved one. Examples can include:
- Physical harm or suffering
- Emotional trauma
- Loss of companionship
Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC Is Here to Help You
The decision to sue a mental health facility is a difficult one to make, but if you believe your loved one is a victim of malpractice, it is imperative to act immediately. Contact us today, and we will schedule an obligation-free consultation to find the best course of action for you and your loved one.