An area of medical malpractice that is sometimes isolated from the public eye in Oregon and elsewhere is psychiatric malpractice. It's an area where severe forms of medical malpractice can occur. One of those is where the doctor abuses the inherent power that he or she holds over the patient. In the boundary violation cases, the doctor may convince the bewildered patient that there is a personal relationship between them and he or she may act to take sexual advantage of the mentally ill patient.

Such cases rely on the misuse of the transference phenomenon, which generally refers to the power that the doctor wields over his mental patients who look up to him or her, and even tend to develop a worship complex for their attention. A small percentage of psychiatrists, psychologists and other therapists have abused the trust aspect and used their power position to manipulate the patient into sexual relations. This may result in a severe and permanent exacerbation of the patient's mental or emotional problems.  

Other violations have to do with the problem of suicide. The doctor must perform a proper suicide risk assessment of each patient and must be in a position to assess realistically the prospects of suicide that the patient may suffer at any given time, given the surrounding circumstances. Where a real risk of suicide exists, not only must the doctor be informed enough to recognize it, he or she must take all reasonable action to prevent it from happening. A breach of these duties can and have led to substantial malpractice awards against the doctor.

There are several other areas of medical malpractice recognized in Oregon and all other jurisdictions. Psychiatrists are held to the same duty to make a proper diagnosis as any other doctors. Where the mental health practitioner makes the wrong diagnosis and provides the wrong treatment, he or she may be found liable for any injuries arising from that negligence.

Source:, "An Introduction to Psychiatric Malpractice Lawsuits and Their Causes", Brian Wu, Feb. 9, 2015