By Stephen R. Huey
The American Psychologist
2015 Apr;70(3):284-5. doi: 10.1037/a0039064
Comments on the article by D. N. Bersoff (see record 2014-28692-002). Bersoff poses a much-needed challenge to the rationale of laws based on Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California (1976), which exist in most states and require therapists to warn the intended victim, police, and/or others when a patient voices serious threats of violence. If Tarasoff-related laws were ever to be modified, research support would be required. To begin with, what is the experience of other countries that happen to address this issue differently and of the seven states that, according to Bersoff, have not adopted Tarasoff-related requirements? Another question is whether patients who are unwilling to invite the consequences of therapist disclosure ever reveal reportable intentions to their therapists anyway-say, by mistake or impulse-thus making current law marginally useful? Rules that undercut sacrosanct confidentiality create a catch-22 in which the indisputable ethical necessity of informed consent has an unintended consequence- namely, therapy is preceded by informed consent but precluded by it.
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