Is liability possible for forensic psychiatrists?
R. Weinstock and T. Garrick,
Bull. Amer. Acad. Psychiatry & the Law
23(2): 183-93, 1995.
Forensic psychiatrists are not as vulnerable to liability as general psychiatrists. The absence of a
traditional physician-patient relationship and judicial and quasijudicial immunity are all protective
against malpractice actions. Although the absence of a doctor-patient relationship removes an
essential element of malpractice, other types of liability such as defamation and ordinary negligence
are possible and may not be covered by malpractice insurance. A model is proposed for forensic
psychiatry of a partial secondary doctor-patient relationship out-weighted in most circumstances by
duties to truth and/or the hiring attorney. Such a model seems most consistent with conflicting duties
currently forced on all psychiatrists. This model has advantages of a duty, a violation of which is
likely to be covered by malpractice insurance. Rather than deemphasizing partial secondary
physician-patient responsibilities, it is advised to stress the important protection provided by judicial
and quasijudicial immunity.