by James L. Kelley
Rutgers University Press, 1996
Cloth: 978-0-8135-2323-1 | eISBN: 978-0-8135-5804-2
Library of Congress Classification KF2910.P753K45 1996
Dewey Decimal Classification 346.730332


Two weeks after Johnny Moore was discharged from a psychiatric hospital, the deeply troubled teenager took a lethal overdose of the antidepressant prescribed by his psychiatrist.

• Dennis Gould suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. He let a streetcar cut off his right arm rather than carry out his divine mission to kill his ex-girlfriend, Shelley Rotman; three years later––while under psychiatric care and after several hospitalizations––Gould stabbed the young woman to death with his left arm. 

• After seven months of psychotherapy as his only treatment in a private psychiatric hospital, Raphael Osheroff’s symptoms of the agitated depression that had destroyed his medical practice and personal life were more severe than ever. At a second hospital, Osheroff was given the antidepressant drugs he had been asking for––and he rapidly improved.

• Joan Barkley went to Dr. Jonathan Fox for help in overcoming her addiction to Darvon. After a year of therapy, the twice-weekly  sessions turned into intense sexual encounters, which continued for two years.

James Kelley tells the true stories of people who sought help from psychiatrists and ended up suing them for malpractice. These tales are compelling, tragic, and sometimes bizarre. They offer a unique view into a relationship that is normally confidential and caring––but can be catastrophic when it goes wrong. Kelley discusses several cases that received national attention: former Reagan administration press secretary James Brady's suit against the psychiatrist who had been treating John Hinckley; the Tarasoff decision that established the psychiatrist’s duty to warn potential victims of a patient’s threats; and the disciplinary proceedings against Dr. Margaret Bean-Bayog for her unusual “mothering” treatment of Paul Lozano.

Kelley accompanies detailed accounts of courtroom clashes––based on court records––with clear, even-handed treatments of four kinds of psychiatric malpractice cases: a patient’s suicide, a patient’s violence against other people, a psychotherapist's sexual misconduct, and the use of unconventional treatments. With a wealth of examples, he explains the role of psychiatrists as expert witnesses against each other, the difficulties of predicting the outcomes of these suits, and the balances psychiatrists and judges have to strike between the duties owed to patients, on the one hand, and to society on the other. 

Whether you identify with the patients or the psychiatrists, you will find these tales unforgettable. Kelley writes in nontechnical language for the general reader, stressing the human elements. His lucid analyses of key, current issues make his book essential reading for professionals in mental health or law––and for anyone contemplating a malpractice suit.


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