Legal Issues in the Emergency SettingMay 1st 2006
In many situations, patients--even those who are acutely mentally ill--and physicians agree on a treatment regimen. In some cases, however, patients may disagree with the treatment after the fact or refuse treatment altogether. Although the physician's primary concerns are patient care and safety, the legalities of medicine are ever present and must be kept in mind. The following cases illustrate some of the medicolegal challenges that may arise in the emergency care setting.
The author continues his analysis, begun 25 years ago, of the use of polypharmacy versus monotherapy with an antipsychotic agent. Although antipsychotic polypharmacy has been condemned over the years, the practice nevertheless continues and has shown marked increase with the introduction of atypical antipsychotic agents.
The Role of the Law in Emergency PsychiatryMay 1st 2006
The concept of Primum non nocere ("First, do no harm") is a cornerstone of medical education. This Latin phrase reminds physicians that medical treatments can potentially have both good and bad effects. Sometimes, the ultimate net benefit of an intervention is clear to both the physician and the patient, and treatment proceeds unimpeded by doubt. When the net benefit of a treatment is less certain, in most branches of medicine patient choice and self-determination play a major role in determining which "gray zone" treatments are appropriate. For the most part, this is also true in psychiatry.
TREATING YOUNG PATIENTS AFTER SELF-HARMMay 1st 2006
This study examined national patterns in emergency department (ED) treatment of patients aged 7 to 22 years who were seen after episodes of deliberate self-harm. Data were from the 1997-2002 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. Population data from the 2000 US Census Bureau were used to estimate population visit rates for the age group studied.
Informed Consent and Civil Commitment in Emergency PsychiatryMay 1st 2006
Medical school graduation usually involves the Hippocratic Oath, in which physicians vow not to intentionally harm their patients. Keeping patients safe is another basic principle of patient care. Physicians are charged with ensuring that their patients are in a safe environment and minimizing risks to their patients by carefully selecting treatment options. In emergency psychiatric settings, patient safety is critical, especially when the patient is a danger to himself or herself or to others.
Involuntary Treatment and the Use of Jails to Treat the Mentally IllMay 1st 2006
All physicians need to be aware of the medicolegal aspects of practicing medicine, but because emergency psychiatrists must sometimes treat patients against their will or act as consultants to determine capacity, they must be especially vigilant when dealing with the overlap between law and medicine.
DETERMINING DECISIONAL CAPACITY INFORMED CONSENTMay 1st 2006
Assessing a patient's capacity to make a decision about accepting or refusing a medical intervention should be performed quickly but systematically. Physicians from the department of psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn, present a 3-dimensional model for evaluating capacity. This model includes the risk of the proposed treatment (high vs low), the benefit level of the treatment (high vs low), and the patient's decision about the treatment (accept vs refuse).
What role do psychiatric advance directives have in today's emergency departments?May 1st 2006
Psychiatric advance directives (PADs) allow persons to authorize proxy decision makers and document advance instructions or preferences about future mental health treatment in the event of a crisis. The intent of PAD legislation is to enhance treatment autonomy for persons with severe mental illnesses (such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression) who anticipate periods of decisional incapacity associated with illness relapse.