Contemporary psychology encompasses a vast number of prominent cases which may be subjected to a profound review in the light of the APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct. One of the most debatable and contentious issue is whether the privileged information should be disclosed when the client dies.
One of the most exemplary ones is the case of Nicole Brown Simpson. After her violent death, her observing psychologist, Mr. Susan J. Forwards made a public statement, in which she disclosed that her former client had been abused by her husband, O.J. Simpson. Obviously, she acted this way in order to raise the public awareness and to facilitate the police investigation. However, California Board of Behavioral Science Examiners suspended the license of the medical worker and put her on probation.
If the guidelines set forth in the Principles and the Code had been precisely followed, the scenario would not have developed this way. It is apparent that the psychologist was hesitant while resolving the issue whether the information was confidential and whether it could be disclosed. From the purely legal standpoint the information should have been disclosed in order to unmask the criminals. However both the ethics and moral prescriptions dictate that doctor-patient privilege cannot be violated in any case. The reasons outlined below indicate the usefulness of the Principles and Code to the typical situation.
First and foremost, it is essential to recapitulate that both the principles and the Code serve as a codification of the existing rules and provisions regulating the trade of the United States psychologies and sometimes their international colleagues. According to the renowned professor Gelder, with the adoption of the Principles and Code by the American Psychology Association, all guiding principles have been assembled in two single documents, and therefore, an ordinary United States psychologist resolving a psychological dilemma with a certain degree of complexity is aware where to find an answer. Moreover, as professor Myers defined, with the adoption of these instruments, the Association has eliminated the necessity to research the legal and ethical database of various guiding principles.
The bigger part of my research deals with revealing the intercourse and interrelation between the mandatory character of the legal principles and the nature of the provisions imposed upon the practicing psychologists by these instruments and the effect it may have. This section is considered as one of the most problematic issues in contemporary psychology. Legal practice manifests that sometimes the laws, bylaws and other legal acts which are currently in force may squarely contradict the principles and the code.
With regard to the usefulness of the APA Principles and the Code of Conduct it is necessary to recapitulate that both instruments are of great avail for the contemporary practicing psychiatrists. They always offer feasible and realistic solutions when the difficulty of choice arises and when this choice is vital.
As far as my personal attitude to these regulatory documents is concerned, I want to highlight the fact, that the principles and rules outlined are guiding both for me as professional, and for my client as well. In particular, the sheer existence of these instruments always prompt me to address them when the appropriate decision is about to be taken. In other words, for me as a psychologist, the character of the set forth principles and regulation can be defined as ‘mandatory’, ‘highly persuasive’ and ‘ultimate’.Overall, it can be inferred that since those documents have been adopted, the process of taking serious, doubtful psychological decisions has been fundamentally simplified, as nowadays it is possible to refer to the experience of the leading scholars in the field of psychology encapsulated in two single documents. I.e. having done a profound analysis of these documents, a practicing psychologist may easily resolve any dilemma of legal, moral or ethical nature.