Ethical Guidelines for Forensic Psychologists

Ethical conflicts have significantly emerged as important concerns in the process of legal dispensation particularly when it comes to the involvement of forensic psychologists. Mental health professionals as well as other psychologists have often been grossly blamed for influencing lawyers’ decisions on serious legal matters. The magnitude of politics is likely to motivate some distrust concerning the ethical stance of these forensic psychologists. Consent is an important ethical concern that has a lot of strength in the field of forensic psychology. Generally, there exist considerable potential consent concerns that remain distinct as well as appropriate to the forensic psychologist and its practice (Francis, 2009). It is generally observable that even in forensics institutions, a victim might never be regarded as knowledgeable to provide consent. The ethical dilemma, therefore, emerges in instances where it is likely to arise cases of forced consent. The clients have to be given a thorough explanation for them to enable informed consent.

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Whilst it may seem hard to insinuate that the victim is getting psychologically and physically proscribed into yielding to treatment, it remains an unjust postulation that a confined client might dread the manner not consenting to the therapy might be viewed. Several clients within correctional facilities or those facing serious charges are always in the procedure of appealing these convictions. Alternatively, they may also be eager for parole. Therefore, it is logical to presume that they might feel that if they fail to cooperate with this therapy then they would get punished more and as well miss their chances for release (APA, 2012). Guideline # 5 which deals with practice appropriately addresses this ethical dilemma of conflict. According to this guideline, “the psychologists must struggle to use culturally appropriate skills within clinical as well as other applied psychological practices.” Thus, it is notable that the application of this principle will enable psychologists to overcome the various ethical concerns related to consent in their daily practice.

The case of Dr. P presents vivid cases of ethical conflicts as well as dilemmas in the practice of forensic psychology. The first instance of ethical conflict is when Dr. P testifies during the first trial. In his statement, he argues that the client was malingering psychosis. Furthermore, he reiterates that the client had responsibility for the deviant behavior. Dr. P’s worst ethical dilemma is observed when he testifies during the same trial that the client was a psychopath. He committed a fallacy when he based his argument on the premise of his extensive familiarity and experience in informally examining psychopaths within the correctional facility. There is a second instance where an ethical dilemma is again portrayed. This is demonstrated when Dr. P testified during the sentencing phase in the trial. He argued here that the client posed a considerable threat of acting violently if accorded with a non-capital sentence. Consequently, a third count of ethical concerns is observable six months later during the proceeding of Sam’s case. This is when Dr. P again testified that the client was not suffering from a mental disease. Instead, he testified that the client was potentially a dangerous psychopath who could kill again. This was if his death penalty could not be imposed during the last time.

The doctor based this testimony according to his broad history with the client. The doctor made these assumptions while disregarding the basic psychiatric processes of analysis or examination of the client. To some extent, it is observable that the doctor might have avoided or assumed the most basic procedures of drawing vital psychological decisions for clients under legal scrutiny. The fourth ethical dilemma can also be noticed in this case study. The revelations during the doctor’s several public interviews were not according to confidentiality as an ethical principle in the practice of forensic psychology. His further disclosure of the high amount of cash he was paid upon presiding over most of his cases is a clear indication that his financial interests overtook the rational process of psychological examination of his clients. The first standard 1.01 concerning the misuse of Psychologists’ Work generally applies to all the instances of ethical dilemma portrayed in the case study (APA, 2012).

The doctor did not learn about the misuse and misrepresentation of his mandate. This is depicted in all the instances where he corruptly and informally advises the jury for the sentence of a psychologically unstable patient. The second instance of ethical dilemma in the doctor’s action relates to the second standard, 2.04. This majorly outlines the bases for empirical as well as professional judgments. It is clearly stated that the doctor draws his conclusions about Sam’s condition informally following his extensive experience with the client. His conclusions are never drawn from scientifically and professionally sound principles. This contravenes the directive under this standard that reiterates that the psychologist’s duties must rely upon set scientific as well as professional familiarity of the subject. The depiction of the doctor’s interest in the financial rewards as he discloses during public book interviews reveals the contradiction of the standard 3.06 of the rules.

There exists a great conflict of interest emanating from the practitioner’s love for the money rather than appropriate service (Conroy & Murrie, 2007). His discussion of the cases that he has falsely presided over in the public interviews contravenes standard 4.01 for maintaining the confidentiality of the pertinent information regarding one’s psychological examination as well as practice. According to this code, these practitioners have an elementary responsibility and ought to initiate considerable precaution to guard confidential facts relating to their practice.

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The public interviews that the doctor conducts are largely controversial with the standard 5.01 (APA, 2012). This code stresses the evasion of false and deceptive statements. Following this code, there is a great limitation on the information that these professionals are supposed or entitled to disclose publicly. Moreover, such information, if related to professional practice, they should be drawn from empirically sound and professionally screened sources (Conroy & Murrie, 2007). Unlike the case of Dr. P, it can be noticed that he publicly attests to psychological examinations that he has always in the past conducted informally. Similarly, his public sentiments during the interview also contradict the standard 5.0 code that limits or restricts media presentations. The doctor is seen to make public statements related to his professional practice that largely contravenes empirical knowledge and professional ethics. Notably, Dr. P. admits that he testifies on the client’s case while basing his sentiments on the informal assessments that he had conducted for the client.

References

APA, (2012). Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct. 2010 Amendments. Web.

Conroy, M. & Murrie, D. (2007). Forensic Assessment of Violence Risk: A Guide for Risk Assessment and Risk Management. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Francis, R. (2009). Ethics for Psychologists, Second Edition, BPS Blackwell, vol. 2: 97-144.

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