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Medical Professional Liability in Psychiatry.

Martin-Fumadó, Carles; Gómez-Durán, Esperanza L; Rodríguez-Pazos, Manuel; Arimany-Manso, Josep.
Actas Esp Psiquiatr; 43(6): 205-12, 2015 Nov-Dec.
Artículo en Inglés | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-26631303

INTRODUCTION:

The safety of patients and the risk of malpractice claims are overriding concerns in medicine and psychiatry.

MATERIAL AND METHODS:

Claims for alleged malpractice in psychiatry managed by the Council of Colleges of Physicians of Catalonia between 1986 and 2009 were analyzed to evaluate their clinical and legal characteristics.

RESULTS:

Ninety-four malpractice claims were found in a 23-year period, mainly claims related to diagnosis (63.83%, including assessment of suicide risk) and the legal figure of serious professional negligence resulting in death (46.8%). Most claims were for hospital (62.77%), emergency (52.5%), and team (53.75%) care. The possible affected party was male (51.58%) with a mean age of 36.6 years. In one-half of the cases, the harm claimed was death. The cases involved 139 specialists, predominantly male (69.57%), with a mean age of 41 years, and of Spanish nationality (91.4%). The time between the medical act and the respective claim was 1.28 years and the time to resolution was 2.68 years. Most of the cases (77.66%) were processed through the courts. The outcome of the cases was filing or dismissal in 91 (95.77%), conviction in 2 (2.81%), and settlement in 1 (1.41%).

CONCLUSIONS:

The cumulative incidence of 0.013 claims (1.35%) in 23 years suggests that there is a very low risk of lawsuits in psychiatry, with a similarly low rate of sentences of professional liability and awards for financial compensation. Specific actions could improve clinical safety, particularly in suicide risk assessment.