Mental Health and Malpractice

April 7, 2013

Mental health and malpractice is a tough topic to address.  My personal experience in pursuing a malpractice and negligence case was stifled in its tracks when the attorneys I consulted told me that malpractice in mental health is very difficult to prove.

As a result of the often insufficient treatment I received and the unjustified forcible hospitalization that occurred in 2003, I felt I had a strong case.  I even attempted to pursue charges against the sheriff officer that forcibly handcuffed me, refused to loosen the handcuffs, which as a result injured and cut my wrist leaving a permanent scar.  I was even sexually assaulted by an unidentified individual while in the facility that I was forcibly hospitalized.

But to no avail, the investigation was dropped because the person, who I believed was a mental health worker at the facility, could not be identified.  As for the sheriff officer, who injured my wrist, although I reported the incident, strangely enough, once I was able to pursue obtaining the records for the incident, there were no records reflecting the situation and what little information was available to me was insufficient.

I know I am not alone when it comes to negligence in the mental health process and system.  But those being treated for mental illness, especially those that are hospitalized, have rights.  In my experience, many of those individuals do not have either the capacity or the knowledge to know what their rights are.  It seems every state may vary on what those rights may be but there are definitely patient rights that apply in psychiatric hospitalizations.

When I was hospitalized and not over medicated, I was often able to share with other patients that they have rights and point out to them exactly what they are.  This was often easy because, the rights were usually posted on a wall or location in the patient area.  On one occasion (the unjustified forcible hospitalization), the facility did not have the rights posted and I demanded that they post them, which they ultimately did.

It often seems that patients, who are dealing with mental health issues, are not treated as a partner in their care.  I understand this may not always be possible but that is why it is especially important to have a patient advocate, in those cases.  Not only are the patients often not treated as a partner, they are usually not adequately educated about their treatment plan and or the illness that they are facing.  In may own case, I was often treated as a prisoner and incapable of understanding my situation.

It is not surprising to me that when I was doing the research for this blog, the information available was very limited.  But I am listing below, links to some of what I found.  I am interested in hearing what others’ experiences have been in the area of mental health and malpractice.  I would be especially interesting to know of anyone that has had success in pursuing a mental health malpractice case.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog.  Here are the links of resources and additional information:


Liability of mental health services for injuries incurred during community treatment

Medical Malpractice: Psychiatric Malpractice

Patient’s Bill of Rights: As a person receiving mental health services

Mental Illness and The Law