A consensus has developed among mental health professionals that the legal duty to protect potential victims of their patients' violent acts, as fashioned by the courts, requires modification. To date, 12 states have responded with legislation designed to clarify and limit clinicians' responsibilities. In addition, APA has distributed a model statute as a resource document to aid those psychiatrists interested in stimulating legislative action. This paper examines existing statutes and the APA resource document, considers the variety of ways in which the goals of reform can be achieved, and recommends approaches that balance desires for public safety with the legitimate needs and concerns of the mental health professions.

Paul S. Appelbaum et al., Statutory Approaches to Limiting Psychiatrists’ Liability for Their Patients’ Violent Acts, 146 American Journal of Psychiatry 821–828 (1989).