The Arms of the Infinite? The Liability of Mental Health Professionals for the Violent Acts of their Patient

Abstract

The article reviews the clinical and legal obligations faced by those with responsibility for the clinical management of potentially violent mentally disordered offenders. Responsibility for violent patients is now a mainstream issue for all mental health practitioners who as part of their professional practice will be expected to have at least a working knowledge of the principles and practice of risk assessment and management. With civil litigation growing for health care negligence there is a pressing need to educate mental health professionals about their legal rights and responsibilities towards violent patients. The primary ethical and legal responsibility of mental health professionals is to their patients. However, the law also requires practitioners to exercise reasonable care in responding to clients’ threats against third parties and, under strictly limited circumstances, protect them from harm. In general, the law does not require workers to warn third parties but permits warnings if the clinician deems them necessary. Case law does not nullify the practitioner’s ethical obligation to protect client confidentiality under most circumstances.

How to Cite

Young A. (2011) “The Arms of the Infinite? The Liability of Mental Health Professionals for the Violent Acts of their Patient”, Mental Health and Learning Disabilities Research and Practice. 8(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.5920/mhldrp.2011.813

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Andy Young

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