Clinician testimony in suicide litigation: A cause to be uneasy

Skip Simpson, William H. Reid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This is an illustrative article rather than a research study. We offer opinions and recommendations about what we view as unfortunate clinician testimony in suicide-related malpractice cases, testimony that – inadvertently or not – supports or encourages inadequate care of suicidal patients. The principles apply to both psychiatrists and non-psychiatrists, although the former appear more often in our work. We particularly consider the roles and testimony, in court or at deposition, of psychiatrists, whether as defendants, expert witnesses, or fact witnesses. We cite examples of what we view as poor, disingenuous, dishonest and even dangerous testimony that we believe moves the profession toward unsafe patient care. The examples illustrate what we (and sometimes others) describe as normalization of deviance, pre-suit puffery, self-serving defendant testimony, expert pride supplanting testimonial responsibility, expert arrogance, expert parroting of attorney suggestions, witness ignorance and avoiding facts, unconscious expert bias, inexperience thwarting justice, misleading use of terms such as “predictability,” and expert witnesses who lack the direct-care experience that jurisdictions often require in order to opine about defendant clinicians' day-to-day patient care. The examples often reveal concerns beyond the category chosen, and should not be expected to convey all of the facts of a particular case.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)313-328
Number of pages16
JournalBehavioral Sciences and the Law
Volume37
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2019

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Expert Testimony
Jurisprudence
testimony
Suicide
suicide
Patient Care
expert
witness
Psychiatry
cause
Lawyers
Malpractice
Social Justice
psychiatrist
patient care
deviant behavior
normalization
Research
jurisdiction
justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law

Cite this

Clinician testimony in suicide litigation : A cause to be uneasy. / Simpson, Skip; Reid, William H.

In: Behavioral Sciences and the Law, Vol. 37, No. 3, 01.05.2019, p. 313-328.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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