Civil Forensic Psychiatry
Civil forensic psychiatry encompasses the following psychiatric topics:
- Independent Medical Evaluations (IMEs)
- Disability Evaluations
- Testamentary Capacity (Ability to Make a Legally-Enforceable Will)
- Matrimonial Capacity (Ability to Form a Legally-Enforceable Marriage)
- Capacity to Consent to (or Refuse) Treatment
- Fitness for Duty Evaluations (IE: for Licensed Professionals such as Pilots, Dentists, Physicians, Nurses, Attorneys)
- Psychiatrist Malpractice/Standard of Care (Following Harm to a Patient)
- Psychic Harm Evaluations (e.g. PTSD or Depression Resulting from an Accident)
- Stalking Evaluations
- Malingering Assessments
- Civil Commitment
What does it take to be a civil forensic psychiatrist?
A medical degree, and five years of psychiatric residency training, with the fifth year consisting of a fellowship in forensic psychiatry. However, those are just the basic requirements. More importantly, it requires a love of the interface of the law and psychiatry. You do not need to have a law degree, just a love of the law. Additionally, get involved with AAPL, the association for U.S. forensic psychiatrists, and attend their annual meeting early in psychiatry residency.
A forensic psychiatrist is never a hired gun. You must be impartial toward the outcome of whatever trial or lawsuit has involved you; yours is a quest for objective truth, as best you can find it, not a partisan battle on behalf of whomever retained you. If you plan to testify, you will need strong credentials that are difficult to attack on the witness stand, so take and pass your boards, and develop an area of expertise (and more importantly, interest) within forensic psychiatry and read about it. Give presentations or write articles on that topic whenever you can. Lastly, realize that a career in forensic psychiatry involves a lot of report writing, so make sure that is something you are good at and enjoy doing.