Psychiatry involves plenty of judgment calls. And when one of them turns out very wrong and results in human beings being murdered, psychiatrists as well as the institutions they work for can be sued. That's exactly what is happening to psychiatrist Lynn Fenton and the University of Colorado.
In the lawsuit Bunk v Fenton filed in the U.S. District Court of Colorado, Chantel Bunk, widow of Jonathan Bunk, is suing Fenton and the University for negligence, reports Bloomberg. When alleged killer James Holmes informed Fenton he had fantasies of killing people, she informed the school. But she didn't order a 72-hour hold. If she had, goes the assumption of the lawsuit, Jonathan might not have been murdered.
This kind of lawsuit is the worst fear of those in the mental-health profession. It seems to send the message for them to err on the side of caution. When they start doing that routinely and that is covered in the media, then clients could come to not disclose such negative thoughts. They could recognize that their lives could be disrupted by mandatory detainment in a psychiatric facility and the stigma of severe mental illness imposed on them.
Those who have studied psychology know that ideation is a standard defense against life's sometimes brutal realities. Those thoughts might be about homicide or suicide. They may be just thoughts. Or they may carry with them intentionality. If psychiatrists make a wrong judgment call on that their careers could crumple.