Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Testifying for civil commitment

B. Todd Thatcher, DO, Forensic psychiatrist, Valley Mental Health Forensic Unit, Salt Lake City, UT

Douglas Mossman, MD, Director, Glenn M. Weaver Institute of Law and Psychiatry, University of Cincinnati College of Law, Director, Forensic Psychiatry Fellowship, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, OH

Testifying in civil commitment proceedings sometimes is the only way to make sure dangerous patients get the hospital care they need. But for many psychiatrists, providing courtroom testimony can be a nerve-wracking experience because they:

•lack formal training about how to testify
•lack familiarity with laws and court procedures
•fear cross-examination.

Training programs are required to teach psychiatry residents about civil commitment but not about how to testify. Residents who get to take the stand during training usually do not receive any instruction. Knowing some fundamentals of testifying can reduce your anxiety and reluctance to take the stand and help you to perform better in court.

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Listen to Dr. Mossman explain how to prepare to testify in civil commitment proceedings

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