Suicide Malpractice Attorney Skip Simpson Offers Advice to Mental Health Professionals During ‘Elevating the Conversation’ Conference

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Lawyer Skip Simpson visited the University of Denver to discuss legal issues surrounding mental health care providers and patient suicide in a presentation titled Best Practices in Suicide Risk Assessment, Management and Support.

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.

Suicide malpractice attorney Skip Simpson of The Law Offices of Skip Simpson provided an attorney’s perspective during a training seminar for mental health service professionals held at the University of Denver on Feb. 27.

Simpson, one of the nation’s experts on the legal aspects of suicide, offered tips for psychiatrists, psychologists and psychology students who provide or will provide treatment for at risk patients.

“It was an honor to be invited to speak at the Elevating the Conversation Conference,” Simpson said today. “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 fixed and is being fixed. 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.”

Simpson said he was invited to help mental health providers and consumer advocates understand how best practices inform legal protections and reduce risk.

Every day in the United States, over 100 people die by suicide. According to the American Association of Suicidology, 41,149 people lost their lives from suicide in 2013.

“Every suicide in a system is preventable, which is why system failure is dangerous,” Simpson said.

Simpson cautioned providers not to live in fear of lawsuits, which takes their focus off the patient. He stressed the importance for mental health providers to document their assessments. By providing careful charting of a suicide assessment, a provider is not only fending off potential lawsuits but also reducing the risk of a suicide.

“Whatever you’re doing, just document it,” he told the conference. “The quality of documentation can determine whether a malpractice attorney accepts or declines a suicide case.”

Attorney Simpson said providers should stay connected to the patient to “hear what they are really saying.” Simpson urged providers to avoid the “checklist mentality” that causes them to forget the individual being treated. “Insincere attitudes are easily picked up,” he said.

If a family loses a loved one, Simpson said, they will want answers from providers; providers have an ethical duty to tell patients or surviving family members what went wrong – that the patient was not at fault.

“Families are not looking for someone to blame,” Simpson said. “Lawsuits often happen when the family is upset and providers aren’t sharing information. What stops lawsuits? In most cases, the provider’s explanation, along with an apology. Compassion goes a long way to avoid litigation.”

About The Law Offices of Skip Simpson

For over 30 years, Skip Simpson has been practicing law, focusing on psychiatric and psychological malpractice, primarily suicide and false memory lawsuits. Nationally recognized for his expertise in suicide law, he is a pioneer in suicide litigation and has represented families who have lost loved ones to suicide around the country.

Family members whose loved one died by suicide and want to know more about their legal rights should seek the help of an experienced suicide attorney by calling (214) 618-8222 or completing the online contact form.

The Law Offices of Skip Simpson
2591 Dallas Pkwy #300
Frisco, TX 75034
(214) 618-8222

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Jacob M Del Hagen
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