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Article

The possibility of practitioner impairment exists in every profession. Stress related to employment, illness or death of family members, marital or relationship problems, financial problems, midlife crises, personal physical or mental illness, legal problems, substance abuse, and professional education can lead to impairment. This article provides an overview of the nature and extent of impairment in social work, practitioners’ coping strategies, responses to impairment, and rehabilitation options and protocols. Particular attention is paid to the problem of sexual misconduct in social workers’ relationships with clients. The author reviews relevant ethical standards and presents a model assessment and action plan for social workers who encounter an impaired colleague.

Article

Malpractice claims against social workers are a reality. Although social workers are trained as students in the importance of adhering to the NASW Code of Ethics, the results of ethics and other practice violations are increasing liability and risk. Social workers have a strong commitment to clients, to communities, and to social justice, but attention to ways of reducing risk, including malpractice insurance and ethics audits, is critical to reducing the numbers of malpractice and ethics complaints against social workers and, ultimately, to enhancing the profession.

Article

Social workers have become increasingly aware of malpractice and liability risks. Disgruntled clients, former clients, and others may file formal ethics complaints and lawsuits against practitioners. Complaints often allege that social workers departed from widely embraced ethical and social work practice standards. This article provides an overview of the concept of risk management and common risks in social work practice pertaining to clients’ rights, confidentiality and privacy, informed consent, conflicts of interest, boundaries and dual relationships, digital and electronic technology, documentation, and termination of services, among others. The author describes procedures used to process ethics complaints, licensing-board complaints, and lawsuits. In addition, the author outlines practical strategies, including an ethics audit, designed to protect clients, third parties, and social workers.

Article

David A. Hyman and Charles Silver

Medical malpractice is the best studied aspect of the civil justice system. But the subject is complicated, and there are heated disputes about basic facts. For example, are premium spikes driven by factors that are internal (i.e., number of claims, payout per claim, and damage costs) or external to the system? How large (or small) is the impact of a damages cap? Do caps have a bigger impact on the number of cases that are brought or the payment in the cases that remain? Do blockbuster verdicts cause defendants to settle cases for more than they are worth? Do caps attract physicians? Do caps reduce healthcare spending—and by how much? How much does it cost to resolve the high percentage of cases in which no damages are recovered? What is the comparative impact of a cap on noneconomic damages versus a cap on total damages? Other disputes involve normative questions. Is there too much med mal litigation or not enough? Are damage caps fair? Is the real problem bad doctors or predatory lawyers—or some combination of both? This article summarizes the empirical research on the performance of the med mal system, and highlights some areas for future research.