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November 1973

Some Suggestions to Psychiatrists for Avoiding Legal Jeopardy

Author Affiliations

New York
Donald J. Dawidoff is a member of the New York and District of Columbia Bars. He serves on the Committee on Medicine and Law of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and practices law in New York City.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1973;29(5):699-701. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1973.04200050104018

In the practice of psychiatry numerous legal risks may be encountered, some of which may be minimized by keeping written notes of the procedure undertaken. The most common risk is civil malpractice, a suit which may be instituted by paranoid patients.

In drug therapy it is helpful to enlist the aid of someone living with the patient to ensure that drugs are taken regularly, in proper dosage, and that none is hoarded. Guarding against wrongful commitment allegations means satisfying good faith reservations before certification. Undue influence may be avoided by discouraging overweaning patient dependency. Criminal liability, though infrequent, must be guarded against by avoiding physical familiarity with patients.

Protection in all cases may be secured by assurance that suggestions are not taken as prescriptions and by consulting an attorney where questions arise.