At PRMS, we have long appreciated the fact that psychiatry, more than any other specialty, interacts regularly with government entities, particularly the courts. Every day, psychiatrists are called on to evaluate patients’ claims for disability, assess criminal defendants’ competency to stand trial or their state of mind at the time of a criminal offense, provide input at a judge’s request in child custody disputes, speak to the fitness for duty of public safety officers and airline pilots, and so forth. Many psychiatrists specialize in this kind of practice, while others get involved sporadically. Regardless, forensic practice, broadly defined as rendering medical services outside the traditional doctor-patient relationship, is common in psychiatry.
Many medical malpractice insurance carriers do not automatically provide coverage for forensic practice. The doctor must request the coverage, and there may be an additional premium charged. Other carriers don’t cover it at all. Rest assured, however, that coverage provided through PRMS and The Psychiatrists’ Program, incorporates forensic practice, including the psychiatrist’s role as an “expert” in medical malpractice cases, as part of the practice of psychiatry.
PRMS has a long-standing commitment to forensic practitioners. Many years ago, we endowed the American Psychiatric Association’s annual Manfred S. Guttmacher Award, which is given for exceptional work in the literature of forensic psychiatry.
Furthermore, our VP for Risk Management, Donna Vanderpool, MBA, JD, has presented forensic risk management at meetings of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law and the American Psychiatric Association. She has also written extensively on forensic practice, including authoring a chapter in “Risks of Harm to the Forensic Expert: the Legal Perspective,” in Ethical Issues in Forensic Psychiatry: Minimizing Harm by Robert L. Sadoff. Our risk management department has several publications targeted to forensic practice.
Assess your own practice. How much forensic work are you doing? If you’re not insured through PRMS, do you have the coverage you need? Let us know if we can help.