Risk management with suicidal patients

J Clin Psychol. 2006 Feb;62(2):171-84. doi: 10.1002/jclp.20221.


The patient who is at-risk for suicide is complex and is difficult to evaluate and treat effectively. Should suicidal behavior occur, the clinician faces the potential wrath of bereaved survivors and their externalized blame exercised through a malpractice suit. The clinician's duty of care to a patient is to act affirmatively to protect a patient from violent acts against self. A finding of malpractice is established if the court finds that this duty was breached, through an act of omission or commission relative to the standard of care, and that this breach was proximately related to the patient's suicidal behavior. This article discusses the standard of care and factors that determine liability in a suicide death of a patient. An extensive list of recommendations for competent caregiving for the at-risk patient and risk management guidelines are then presented.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liability, Legal
  • Malpractice / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Psychology, Clinical / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Psychotherapy / standards
  • Risk Management / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Suicide*
  • United States