Dec 20, 2012 4:39 PM GMT
In France on Tuesday, a psychiatrist was sentenced to a year in prison for failing to recognize the risk that her patient would later harm someone.
Joel Gaillard, her patient for four years, apparently hacked 80-year-old Germain Trabuc to death with an ax less than three weeks after running off from a session with his therapist, according to Reuters. But while the shrink is headed for incarceration, Gaillard himself was released under medical supervision. The victim’s son expressed the hope that the case would set a precedent, “move psychiatry forward and, above all, that it will never happen again.”
This case, which will seem remarkable to Americans, is reminiscent of the scientists convicted in Italy of failing to warn of earthquake risk. And it raises questions about the limits of professional responsibility, and just how severe the consequences should be when those of us in positions of authority mess up (assuming the psychiatrist really did so). It also raises the perennial question of how we should handle (or even recognize) people with potentially dangerous mental illnesses.