Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2150956
 


 



Parity at a Price: The Emerging Professional Liability of Mental Health Providers


Thomas L. Hafemeister


Independent

Leah Gail McLaughlin


Cohen & Grigsby, P.C.

Jessica Smith


Macfarlane Ferguson & McMullen, P.A.

June 3, 2013

50 San Diego Law Review 29 (2013)
Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2012-60

Abstract:     
With standards to guide treatment largely absent and a highly debilitated, stigmatized, and isolated clientele, it is hardly surprising that mental health providers have historically been effectively immune from professional liability claims. Recent developments, as described in this article, suggest that this immunity is eroding.

This evolution creates a conundrum for the courts and society. Providing mental health treatment has never been highly prestigious or particularly financially rewarding, making it difficult to recruit and retain qualified practitioners, notwithstanding that they serve a vulnerable population who at times are in desperate need of their services. Simultaneously, however, society is increasingly recognizing how crucial it is to enhance the quality of mental health services, with the tort system providing one vehicle by which this quality may be improved.

This article examines a number of areas in which professional liability claims pertaining to mental health care can be expected to increase. On the one hand this represents a triumph. It indicates that clients are sufficiently recovered, empowered, and supported that they can pursue claims against mental health providers for inadequate care. However, mental health care in this country continues to be under-funded, under-supported, and under-appreciated. To the extent that its providers feel that the delivery of this care has become too onerous, it may drive them away from the field and make critically needed services even less available. Individuals with a mental illness, too, will likely be torn between applauding the enhanced acceptance of claims of inadequate mental health services and a fear that the already limited pool of qualified care providers will be further diminished.

The debate about the impact of medical malpractice liability on the practice of medicine and whether it improves or impedes the quality of health care has raged for over a century-and-a-half in this country and continues today. The emergence of this parallel debate with regard to mental health care calls for greater attention to when and why its practitioners are likely to be exposed to professional liability, an effort undertaken herein.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 60

Keywords: mental health care & treatment, professional liability, torts, medical jurisprudence, health law & policy, health care providers, mental health care parity, impact of liability on delivery of health care services

JEL Classification: I00, I1, I10, I18, I31, K13, K32, K4

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Date posted: September 23, 2012 ; Last revised: June 4, 2013

Suggested Citation

Hafemeister, Thomas L. and McLaughlin, Leah Gail and Smith, Jessica, Parity at a Price: The Emerging Professional Liability of Mental Health Providers (June 3, 2013). 50 San Diego Law Review 29 (2013); Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2012-60. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2150956

Contact Information

Thomas L. Hafemeister (Contact Author)
Independent ( email )
Leah Gail McLaughlin
Cohen & Grigsby, P.C. ( email )
9110 Strada Place
Mercato - Suite 6200
Naples, 34108
United States
Jessica Smith
Macfarlane Ferguson & McMullen, P.A. ( email )
One Tampa City Center
201 N. Franklin Street, Suite 2000
33602
United States
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