Description: This is a short, user-friendly guide to legal information for clinical psychiatric decision-making. It is one of the American Psychiatric Press series of small, paperback volumes summarizing practical treatment information for psychiatrists and mental health trainees. This is the second edition of a book initially published ten years ago.
Purpose: It succeeds in its purpose, which is to help psychiatrists avoid legal malpractice while delivering ethical clinical care. This is particularly relevant in the current era of managed care, when profit-driven constraints on clinical practice have led to enhanced vulnerability to malpractice suits, as well as major ethical concerns and conflicts in patient care.
Audience: It is "designed to fit into a lab coat pocket," and should be useful to medical students and psychiatric residents, as well as experienced clinical psychiatrists. The author is well known and respected as an educator in this area, having authored numerous articles and several excellent texts.
Features: The book is divided into ten major areas, covering such issues as confidentiality and testimonial privilege; informed consent; involuntary hospitalization; management of suicidal and violent patients; and sexual misconduct. Major strengths include a preventive approach, extensive use of citations and summary tables, a detailed table of contents, and a glossary of legal terms. One drawback is the minimal text updating since the first edition, despite more recent and expanded references. This may be because, while law and healthcare delivery structures have changed, the principles of ethical clinical care and malpractice prevention have not.
Assessment: This is an excellent handbook, both authoritative and concise. Those requiring greater depth should see the author's full-length textbook, Clinical Psychiatry and the Law , 2nd Edition (American Psychiatric Press 1992), or his three edited volumes, Review of Psychiatry and the Law (American Psychiatric Press 1990, 1991, and 1992).