There’s an old joke that could just hint about malpractice. The psychiatrist tells the patient he has done everything possible to make the patient comfortable while she’s on the couch during the session. “I’ve assured you that you’re a very beautiful young lady, and you should have no fears about your sexuality. But, as an ethical and responsible psychiatrist, I can only go so far to make you feel desirable. In fact, I shouldn’t even be lying in the couch with you.”
Of course, there’s nothing funny about a psychiatrist who crosses the line in treating patients. Not only has he sworn a commitment to medical ethics, but by molesting or otherwise mistreating patients, he is taking advantage of a troubled person who is extremely vulnerable and dependent on his expertise.
Not all incidents of malpractice involve sexual misbehavior. There are other possible offenses. The patient may be induced to subscribe to a long term of expensive visits when they may not be necessary. The psychiatrist may give false advice that induces the patient to cause emotional, economic or physical damage to the patient and/or members of the patient’s family. The psychiatrist may prescribe drugs that cause unnecessary substance abuse, addiction or otherwise do physical harm to the patient. The doctor may falsely induce a patient to break up a marriage that has negative effects on the couple and their children.
When a patient or a member of the family suspects malpractice, the first step may be to talk to the psychiatrist. Caution! This is certainly not a good idea if the suspicions or evidence are very strong. However, in the field of mental health, patients and their perceptions are not always the most reliable source of such serious accusations. Therefore, before confronting the psychiatrist, a few simple questions during your visit with him/her could either allay your fears or convince you to go forward with action against malpractice.
That said, and if you believe you must act to prevent further violations, start with contacting your local police department. Even if you decide to go no further, and will give the psychiatrist the benefit of the doubt at that time, at least your initial concern is on record. If necessary, your next steps are to contact your local medical and psychiatric agencies, including both official governmental and professional societies.
If your actions take you beyond talking with the psychiatrist in person, it is wise to consult an attorney before you take any official steps against the alleged offender. Choose an attorney carefully, preferably one who has worked with your family on previous occasions. If you’ve seen any of the more blatant attorney ads on TV, you have to be aware that some are aggressively in business only to create malpractice lawsuits for their own personal financial gain.
The most important step is to make certain that you or a loved one who has placed considerable faith in a psychiatric professional is not being exploited or abused. Then, when the evidence is clear, to make sure it is stopped as quickly as possible and offender appropriately punished.