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

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ethical Principles and the Communication of Forensic Mental Health Assessments

Alfred Allan, Thomas Grisso
Ethics & Behavior 
Vol. 24, Iss. 6, 2014

Our premise is that ethics is the essence of good forensic practice and that mental health professionals must adhere to the ethical principles, standards, and guidelines of their professional bodies when they communicate their findings and opinions. We demonstrate that adhering to ethical principles can improve the quality of forensic reports and communications. We demonstrate this by focusing on the most basic principles that underlie professional ethical standards and guidelines, namely, Fidelity and Responsibility, Integrity, Respecting Rights and Dignity of Persons, and Justice and Fairness. For each principle we offer a brief definition and explain its demands. Then we identify ways in which the principle can guide the organization, content, or style of forensic mental health report writing, offering illustrative examples that demonstrate or abuse the principle.


Unless they are confronted with a specific ethical problem, many professionals consider the writing of reports an archetypical practical task and might not consider how it is related to the ethical principles of their profession. Yet ethics is the very essence of professional practice. As we seek to demonstrate, almost every facet of report writing is related to an ethical principle. We do not assert that one is practicing unethically if one makes the types of errors in report writing that we have described. Our primary purpose in this article is to demonstrate how forensic report writing can be improved by using professional ethics principles as a guide for report-writing practice.

The entire article is here, behind a paywall.