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Tarasoff Case

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A number of states have adopted "duty to warn" or "duty to protect" laws following the landmark court case Tarasoff v. Regents of University of California (1976). In addition, there are other mandated exceptions to maintaining client confidentiality such as reporting child or elder abuse, or the reckless transmission of HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases. Most statutes protect mandatory reporters from liability claims, including those based on a breach of confidentiality. Counselors need to remain apprised of their state's statutes related to confidentiality and "duty to warn," and understand how these statutes apply to their own practice. In addition, as you review the Tarasoff case and related readings, be mindful of the issue of vicarious liability, which extends "duty to warn" liability to a counselor's supervisor.

Reference: Tarasoff v. Regents of University of California, 17Cal.3d425, 131Cal.Rptr.14, 551P.2d334 (1976).

1. Give a brief description of the State of Maryland case law and statutes related to the Tarasoff decision. Then, analyze how a professional counselor would resolve "duty to warn" and/or "duty to protect" dilemmas, noting relevant ethical codes and decision-making models. Be specific, referencing specific case law and statutes.

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(1) Brief Description of the State of Maryland case law and statutes related to the Tarasoff Case

The Tarasoff Case vs. Regents of California was the infamous case that established the precedent in the principles in the APA Ethical Codes on psychologists' , 'duty to warn", and "duty to protect" against potential violence and danger to individuals who are being threatened with bodily harm and danger from their patients. The case involved the murder of a young woman by her ex-boyfriend who was a patient in the University of California Counseling Center. The family of the young man sued citing the doctors' neglect. Based on the case (Tarasoff I vs. Regents of the University of California, 1974 as cited in Simon & Fulerno, 2005), the court ruled that psychotherapists had a "duty to warn" when patients presented the threat of bodily harm. However, as Simon & Fulerno note, psychologists and other professional argued that the ruling jeopardized the confidentiality existing between the psychotherapist and their patients.

On this basis, the court vacated its earlier ruling and modified the "duty to warn, with the statement of, "duty to protect" (Simon & Fulerno, 2005, p. 145). Basically, the court ruled that when a therapist determines a threat has been made or presents a serious danger of violence to another, the therapist has a duty to protect that other person. According to Simon and Fulerno, the court's decision compelled psychotherapists in California to warn potential victims of psychiatric patients when there is a danger to the public even if it meant breaching confidentiality (Tarasoff II 1976, as cited in Simon & Fulerno, 2005, 175). The California Supreme Court ...

Solution Summary

This solution discusses the issues of the duty to warn and duty to protect based on the landmark case court case Tarasoff vs. Regents of University of California.