Assessing Adverse Outcomes and Learning Needs in Canadian Psychiatric Independent Medical Examinations

J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2024 Mar 11;52(1):33-40. doi: 10.29158/JAAPL.230116-23.


Despite the importance of independent medical examinations (IMEs), there is virtually no literature on the risks to the IME assessor nor the learning needs of psychiatrists in this area. To address this deficit, a retrospective chart review of nearly 38,000 cases from the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA) identified 108 files involving complaints or legal actions against psychiatrists performing IMEs. Most complaints identified by the CMPA were to regulatory bodies, including biased opinion, inadequate assessment, inappropriately relying on a requester's information without independent evaluation, nonadherence to regulatory body policies, cursory documentation lacking relevant details, and communication breakdowns. A survey by the Canadian Academy of Psychiatry and the Law (CAPL) and the Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA) had 306 Canadian psychiatrist respondents. About 37 percent of psychiatrists completing IMEs reported medico-legal consequences, including complaints to regulatory authorities. Only 40 percent of those doing IMEs and 20 percent of all psychiatrists had formal training in doing IMEs. The studies confirm that despite a low but important risk of medico-legal consequences, many psychiatrists performing IMEs do not have formalized training. Using the new CAPL Canadian Guidelines for Forensic Psychiatry Assessment and Report Writing is a step to reduce the risk of such evaluations.

Keywords: Canada; forensic psychiatry; independent medical examinations; liability; psychiatry.

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Forensic Psychiatry
  • Humans
  • Independent Medical Evaluation*
  • Psychiatry* / education
  • Retrospective Studies