By Griffin Sims Edwards
Journal of Law and Economics, Vol. 57, 2014
Emory Law and Economics Research Paper No. 10-61
The seminal ruling of Tarasoff v. Regents enacted a duty that required mental health providers to warn potential victims of any real threat to life made by a patient. Many have theorized that this required breach of confidentiality may have adverse effects on effective psychological treatment - but the question remains unanswered empirically. Due to the presence of duty to warn laws, patients might forego mental health treatment that leads them to violence. Using a fixed effects model and exploiting the variation in the timing and style of duty to warn laws across states, I find that mandatory duty to warn laws cause an increase in homicides of 5%. These results are robust to model specifications, falsification tests, and help to clarify the true effect of state duty to warn laws.
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