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Understanding Ethical, Medico-legal, and Treatment Issues in Dealing with Individuals at-Risk of Suicide

As the title states, this half-day workshop will present an in-depth understanding of the standard of care expected of clinical practitioners tasked with assessing and treating patients at risk of suicide.  It will dispel some myths in clinicians’ training with regard to conducting a suicide risk assessment, particularly with regard to an over-reliance on expressed suicide ideation as a gateway to that assessment; will overview the most common breaches in the standard of care alleged in malpractice actions; discuss in depth the importance of documentation in avoiding any such allegations from ever being made; and cover a host of ethical and treatment issues that arise in the course of working with at-risk patients, ranging from issues of countertransference, abandonment, confidentiality, competence, consent, the decision to hospitalize, the decision to discharge, and split treatment, to the use of social media and tele-mental healthcare.

Learning Objectives

  1. Describe the concept of standard of care as it applies to working with individuals at risk of suicide
  2. Discuss medico-legal issues relevant to alleged breaches in the standard of care
  3. Describe ethical and treatment issues in dealing with individuals at-risk of suicide
  4. Assess the importance of documentation to guide an SRA/SRF and minimize the likelihood of a malpractice action

Tentative Schedule

  • The Standard of Care …………………. 1:30 – 2:20
  • Medicolegal Issues …………………….. 2:20 – 3:00
  • BREAK …………………………………… 3:00 – 3:15
  • Ethical and Treatment Issues ………… 3:15 – 4:20
  • BREAK …………………………………… 4:20 – 4:35
  • Documentation ………………………… 4:35 – 5:00


Participants may register for the pre-conference ONLY, or register for the pre-conference AND the full conference. When registering for the pre-conference, be sure to also select a CE ticket to receive your credits.


Dr. Lanny Berman

Dr. Berman holds a B.A. degree from the Johns Hopkins University and a Ph.D. from the Catholic University of America.  Concurrent with a 40 year outpatient practice of psychotherapy, he was (successively) a tenured professor of psychology at American University (1969-1991) , Director of the National Center for the Study and Prevention of Suicide at the Washington School of Psychiatry (1991-1995), and Executive Director of the American Association of Suicidology (AAS: 1995-2014).  Dr. Berman is a Past-President of the AAS, their 1982 Shneidman Award recipient (for Outstanding Contributions in Research in Suicidology), and recipient of AAS’s Louis I. Dublin Award for outstanding service and contributions to the field of suicide prevention.  He was twice elected President of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP, 2009-2013); he is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and the International Academy of Suicide Research, and a Diplomate of the American Board of Professional Psychology.  He has published more than 175 professional articles and book chapters and is author or editor of nine books in the field of Suicidology and Suicide Prevention..  In addition, he serves as consulting editor to three journals.  From 2015 to the present, Dr. Berman has been an Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine where he teaches, mentors psychiatric residents,  and conducts research.  He currently serves as co-chair of the Suicide Fatality Review Committee of the MD Governor’s Commission on Suicide Prevention and as co-principal investigator of a major suicide prevention project in the State of Minnesota.  He continues to provide legal testimony and consultation with regard to cases of suicide both nationally and internationally.