Duty to Protect vs Patient Confidentiality Essay

617 Words 3 Pages
On October 27th of 1969, after returning home from a summer in Brazil, University of California at Berkley student, Tatiana Tarasoff was repeatedly stabbed and killed by a fellow classmate, Prosenjit Poddar. As tragic as the crime itself was, more tragic was the fact that it could have been prevented. Poddar had developed an unhealthy obsession with Miss Tarasoff during the year leading up to her death. Her continuous rejection of his advances sent him spiraling into a deep depression. He was encouraged by friends to seek treatment at the University’s student health center. During his course of therapy Poddar revealed to his counselor his intentions to kill Tatiana. Though the therapist did take steps to prevent the tragedy from …show more content…
Confidentiality however, is not a guarantee, but rather a privilege as illustrated in the Tarasoff case. Absolute confidentiality cannot be promised to a client. It can only be protected to an extent permitted by law (Corbin, p. 4). Therefore, limitations on confidentiality need to be openly addressed throughout the therapeutic process to ensure the clients understanding. Difficulties arise when a mental health professional must decide which client might be considered dangerous confusing the clinician’s obligations (Corey Et Al, p. 230). The Tarasoff decision nearly forces the helping professional to be psychic, holding them responsible for predicting violent actions, an almost impossible endeavor.
However, when faced with a potentially violent client, counselors must ensure specific actions are taken to protect the public and reduce their own liability regardless (p.230). Such steps would include gathering a detailed history; if the client is regarded as violent, conduct a risk assessment to gage the level of dangerousness. Inform the client of the limitations to confidentiality as well as the clinician’s legal obligations. Additionally, if threats are made during the course of therapy, record it and any other client statements that may seem pertinent. Confer with a supervisor and/or legal counsel if unclear about one’s extent of responsibility
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