This student, a new forensic psychologist in a minimum security prison, has, in the process of interviewing a new inmate, been told by the prisoner that he took the blame for his 19-year-old son’s aggravated assault on a 17-year-old minor. Neither the attacker nor the victim had any recollection of what had happened since they, along with their friends, had been drinking. This forensic psychologist now has a dilemma. Much as he wants to include this information in a report to the judge, he realizes that, even as a forensic psychologist, he is bound by physician-client privilege, which does not permit him to do that. Loopholes may, however, exist. According to the Constitutional Daily (2011), this privilege is only in effect with respect to obtaining medical treatment, which in this case it is not. Furthermore, the privilege does not apply to criminal proceedings—for which this inmate is incarcerated– only civil proceedings.
A review of the literature indicates that psychologists/psychiatrists/medical doctors/have encountered serious conflicts with respect to physician-client privilege. If something could present harm to someone, they feel a need to act on it. However, they do, their relationship with their client may be detrimentally affected. “In some circumstances, the law specifically dictates a duty to notify public authorities of information that might be acquired in the context of a therapist-client relationship” (Koocher and Keith, 2009). The work of a forensic psychologist employed in a correctional institution—working with convicted individuals—is somewhat different than that of colleagues in other settings (Haag, 2006). Therefore, this student/forensic psychologist informing the judge—which would be done—that the guilty person is still on the streets, that the father is willingly taking the blame would have no negative repercussions.
Haag, A. M. (2006). Ethical Dilemmas Faced by Correctional Psychologists in Canada.
Criminal justice and behavior. Retrieved on January 24, 2012, from http://cjb.sagepub.com.
Koocher, G.P. and Keith, P. (2009). “What should I do?” – 38 ethical dilemmas involving
confidentiality. Retrieved on January 24, 2012, from http://www.continuinged.courses.net.
Staff. (2011, July 20). Evidence: Physician – Patient Privileges. Constitutional Daily.
Retrieved on January 24, 2012, from http://www.constitutionaldaily.com.