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Can Mental Healthcare Providers Commit Malpractice

Not so long ago, people suffering from mental and emotional issues avoided seeking treatment due to the fear that society would view them negatively for seeking assistance from a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other mental healthcare workers. While many people with mental illness still do not obtain treatment, the stigma has lessened over time.

Undoubtedly, mental health care is an essential component of overall health for many people. Treatment needs can arise from a multitude of causes. For example, some people have a genetic predisposition to certain issues. In addition, some people have suffered emotional trauma from relationships, or experienced traumatic events. 

People who have suffered personal injury from an accident caused by the negligence of another, a topic addressed frequently in this blog, may have mental and emotional injury arising from the accident that needs to be addressed. 

But what if a mental healthcare professional performs negligently and causes a patient further harm? Can these mental healthcare providers be held liable for malpractice in Oregon? That is the topic of this blog post.

The Need for Mental Healthcare

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), estimates suggest that approximately 20 percent of adults in the United States have a mental illness. This includes emotional, behavioral, and mental disorders. 

Unfortunately, the majority of these people do not obtain treatment. While some people do not have access to treatment, many people who have access do not seek the treatment. According to Thriveworks, there are multiple reasons, such as fear, pride, and misunderstanding of the treatment process.

Notwithstanding these issues, there have been improvements in how people view mental health treatment, and the number of people seeking treatment has increased. According to NIMH, in 2021, 26.5 million adults received mental health treatment. This includes inpatient and outpatient treatment or counseling and medication prescribed to treat problems.

Can Mental Healthcare Providers Commit Malpractice?

In a word, yes. Mental healthcare providers must meet the applicable standard of care, just like other professionals. If they fail to do so, and this failure causes harm to their patients, they can be held liable for their malpractice.

In fact, one survey determined that 41 percent of psychiatrists in the United States have been sued at least once for malpractice. Below we will discuss a few types of malpractice sometimes committed by healthcare providers:

  • Failure to Diagnose/Misdiagnosis – psychiatrists and psychologists, just like other doctors, are often tasked with diagnosing patients to treat their issues properly. If they fail to diagnose or misdiagnose a problem, the patient may harm himself or others. One unfortunate result can be suicide.
  • Improper Sexual Relationship – close, intimate relationships between a patient and mental healthcare professional can develop. Occasionally, the provider may improperly take advantage of the patient’s vulnerabilities.
  • Failure to Supervise/Prevent Harm – some mental health patients are really struggling. They may need to be supervised very carefully to ensure that harm is prevented. A failure in this regard can lead to suicide and other bad outcomes.

Call with Questions

If someone has suffered physical, mental, or emotional harm that you believe is related to the actions of a mental healthcare provider, you will likely have questions about your rights. Please call us for a free consultation, and we will be happy to answer all of these questions. Mental healthcare providers can commit malpractice just like other healthcare providers. 

The experienced personal injury and malpractice attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield know how to investigate these types of claims and are here to assist you. We believe that the only way to make society safer for everyone is to hold everyone responsible for their negligent actions.