Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, philosophy and health care

Monday, September 9, 2013

Vignette 28: Another Point of View

A psychologist who completes evaluations for the Bureau of Disability Determination (BDD) calls you for a consultation.

Earlier in the day, the psychologist evaluated a 48-year-old male with a history of chronic pain.  The only documentation received from BDD was a list of medications, which included an antidepressant and a prescription sleep aid.

The disability applicant arrived late for the evaluation, reporting that his pain prevented him from being on time.  He shuffled his feet, walked in a hunched manner, used a cane, shifted in his seat frequently, and groaned throughout the evaluation.  He described rather significant cognitive and vegetative symptoms of depression.  He began to cry softly at one point when discussing the negative consequences of chronic pain.  When asked about outpatient psychological treatment, the disability applicant explained he did not know that psychotherapy could help, and he would be anxious to try therapy.

At the end of the evaluation, the patient left, shuffling and making muffled groans as he left the office and the waiting room.  When the psychologist returned to his office, he remembered a lunch date for which he was late.  As he was leaving the office building, the psychologist saw the disability applicant in the parking lot laughing with another person.  He twirled his cane with one hand.  He stood upright and seemed genuinely happy.  When the disability applicant met the psychologist’s gaze, the applicant immediately hunched over, grabbed his back, groaned loudly, and used the cane to steady himself.  The psychologist hopped in his car for lunch without any discussion with the applicant.

Knowing that BDD evaluations are used within a legal context (in that lawyers, other psychologists, and administrative law judges will see this report), the psychologist asks the following questions:

1. What are the psychologist's ethical duties to the BDD?

2. What are the psychologist's ethical duties to the applicant?

3. Is the psychologist permitted to use any of his observations outside of the office as part of his report? If so, why?  If not, why not?

4. If so, should it be included as an addendum or as part of the body of the report?

5. In either case, how do these observations influence the psychologist’s rating of truthfulness or veracity during the evaluation?

6. Does the psychologist have any obligation to clarify what happened in the parking lot with the disability applicant by phone?

7. If not, how should the psychologist respond if the disability applicant calls him to discuss the evaluation or the interaction in the parking lot?

8. Is it appropriate to use the term “malingering” in the report, given that there is such a small sample of behavior?
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