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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


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


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.


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%).


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.