Liability in Patient Suicide

Mental health providers who work with suicidal patients often worry about getting sued if there’s a fatal outcome, and for good reason.

Results from early survey data show that when patients die by suicide, more than half of families view the fatal outcomes as an obvious case of mental health malpractice, and 25% contact an attorney about suing providers.

Unfortunately, the threat of malpractice has changed the way some mental health providers practice, forcing them into “defensive practices.” They might become over-reliant on prescribing psychotropic medications and/or they might overuse inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations.

How to Reduce the Risk of Suicide

Fortunately, there is another way to approach the treatment of suicidal patients – which can increase positive outcomes and reduce the risk of malpractice lawsuits.

In mental health malpractice cases – as with other health care specialties – to prove malpractice, the plaintiff has to prove that the provider did not sufficiently meet the “standard of care.” By providing suicide-specific care and thoroughly documenting everything in the medical records, you can ensure that you will meet or exceed the standard of care.

At CAMS-care, we have developed a clinical philosophy of care and a therapeutic framework for assessing and treating suicidal patients. Our flexible and collaborative approach to suicide prevention has been adopted by thousands of mental health providers worldwide, and CAMS is based on more than 30 years of clinical research.

The beauty of CAMS (which stands for “Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality”) is that it ensures that the basic steps of suicide prevention are “baked” into clinical care practices. When these steps become “usual and customary practices” for mental health providers, lives are saved. And in the event of a fatal outcome, there is a “built-in” defense against malpractice.