Duty to Warn

Topics: Ethics, Decision making, Risk Pages: 4 (1515 words) Published: September 20, 2011
Duty to Warn
Jessica Hall
Dr. P.

Duty to Warn
The ethical dilemma I wish to explore is The Duty to Warn. This refers to the duty of a counselor, therapist to breach one of the most important bonds between a client and a therapist; the law of confidentiality. The therapist has the right to break confidentiality without the fear of being brought up for legal action. If the therapist believes that the client poses a danger, or is a threat to himself, someone else, or society as a whole, the therapist must decide how serious of a threat the client may be, then if he decides it’s a serious issue, he must notify the person in danger, which would e the third party, or the police, or other people who may be in the position to protect that person, or the other people involved from harm. Duty to Warn received its legal precedence in a case in 1976, Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California. In this case, a student named Prosenjit Poddar was seeing a psychologist at the student health center at the university. He was in love with a woman named Tatiana Tarasoff, to the point of pure pathological obsession, or attachment. The psychologist, noticing his actions, seeing how attached he was to Tatiana, and on top of that, he had purchased a gun, the psychologist did the smart thing and alerted officials about Poddar. The police talked to Poddar and didn’t feel that he was a threat, so they just told him to stay away from Tatiana. Unfortunately, two months later, he killed Tatiana. Her parents tried to sue the university, and the police, but the courts dismissed the case. This case made it very clear of the therapist’s duty to inform and use great care to protect third parties against the danger that one of their clients might pose. The above describes the ethical dilemma being explored. Now, I will apply the first 14 steps in the ethical decision making process to my selected issue of Duty to warn, and finally I will explain the...

References: Simon, R.I. (2001). Psychiatry and the Law. American Psychiatric Publishing. 1987
Stone, AA: The Tarasoff Decisions: suing psychotherapists to safeguard society. Harvard Law Rev 90:358-78, 1976
“Warning a Potential Victim of a Person’s Dangerousness: Clinician’s Duty or Victim’s Rights?” Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online. 2006. Retrieved 2011-09-04.
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