Suicide Malpractice Attorney Skip Simpson Set to Speak About Legal Issues Involving Mental Health Care Providers
Suicide malpractice attorney Skip Simpson will offer a legal perspective during the 2015 Annual Conference for Behavioral Health on Sept. 17 at the Airport DoubleTree by Hilton.
Simpson, who is based in Dallas but represents families who have lost loved ones nationwide, has been recognized as one of the nation’s leading experts on the legal aspects of suicide. He has been quoted in national publications including the Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic Monthly.
His presentation in September is titled “Thinking Failure – The Right Focus.” Thinking failure means to imagine all the ways something can go wrong—before it does—and fix it. Simpson had a 20 year career in the military where he learned about failure mode effect analysis as a combat crew member dealing with nuclear weapons. NASA, nuclear facilities, and aircraft carrier crews are well versed in the concept. The Joint Commission for years has stressed that Behavioral hospitals learn to think failure for patient safety.
Simpson will speak about how best practices inform legal protections and reduce risk, among other issues. One of the learning objectives of his presentation is called “Avoiding the fear or lawsuits.”
Simpson urges mental health providers to document their assessments of patients to avoid lawsuits and to reduce the risk of a patient dying.
“My goal as an attorney is not to threaten mental health care providers with lawsuits. I want to help make meaningful systematic changes. The system has been broken for a long time, but it can be repaired and is being repaired” Simpson said. “The law is on the side of care providers; it is not a stumbling block or something to be feared for those who practice safely. If they follow best practices in suicide risk assessment, management and carefully document their assessments and how they reach their conclusions on protecting patients, they will be protected against suicide malpractice lawsuits.”
Over 100 people die by suicide every day in the United States. According to the American Association of Suicidology, 41,149 people lost their lives from suicide in 2013.
Simpson notes that every suicide in a system is preventable. That’s why it’s critical for health care providers to do everything possible to prevent system failure.
“Families are not looking for someone to blame when someone dies by suicide,” Simpson said recently. “Lawsuits often happen when the family is upset and providers aren’t sharing information. What stops lawsuits? In most cases, good documentation, the provider’s explanation for what went wrong, along with an apology. Compassion goes a long way to avoid litigation.”
The conference is presented by the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas and Kansas Association of Addiction Professionals. For more information about the conference, visit http://www.acmhck.org/annual-conference/.