Assignment 1 is written in APA format; due next class
(attempt it, you will not be deducted for not doing it, but it is recommended)
Legal and Clinical Ethical Issues
• APA and CPA: guidelines: suggest all psych courses discuss ethical issues
◦ code of ethics: behaviours that you should and should not participate in.
• Laws and Ethics are not the same thing but they do interact
◦ Not all ethics are laws and vice versa; most laws are based in ethics.
• What is legal?
◦ Laws are a set of rules imposed by society (law makers: elected officials; legislative system government;
members of parliament; members of provincial parliament & counsellors. Law enforcers: police; peace
officer. Interpreters of law: Lawyers, judges, judicial system)
◦ implications for behaviour: there is clear right and wrong; set of norms;
◦ behaviours that you "MUST" follow.
◦ if these rules are broken; there are consequences; clear for breaking the rules
‣ there are behaviours that you must participate in.
◦ laws can change over time
‣ based on ethical changes
• What is Ethical?
◦ significant grey area because there are guidelines
◦ a code of morals
◦ what are morals?
‣ behaviours that we "SHOULD" participate in.
• "you should not sleep with your patient" this behaviour is unethical but it is not illegal, because
consent has been made in the relationship.
◦ you have an intimate verbal relationship with that person it may turn into something more
‣ relationship could cause transference of the abnormal behaviours.
‣ if you have a sexual relationship with the patient that is considered unethical until after 3
years after the client is no longer your client (APA guideline)
◦ Ethical guidelines: broken; "in the eyes of the profession you have done wrong"
◦ you don't lose your freedom, but your license could be taken away so you lose your livelihood
‣ Hippocratic oath: "do no harm [your client]"
• psychological harm: laughing at your client causing shame and embarrassment
• once a patient always a patient
◦ ex. a client says "dr i need to talk to you, i have difficulty dealing with my feelings and
conscience because i murdered someone..." reporting to the police you are being unethical; you
have done the right thing as a citizen but not as a psychologist with a patient. You can lose your
licence. you could convince them to report themselves.
‣ Privilege: in the law you should not convey any information about the information that you
know because of the special relationship with the patient.
• you do not need to bear witness or testify against your client. this is a new legal
responsibility that comes with your profession. You are not compelled to give any
• the police come asking for information you tell them to get a subpoena.
‣ If that patient threatens to hurt you: you have a right to say I don't want to see you
anymore; this is considered unethical because it harms the patient.
◦ ex. you are asked to do a mental competency assessment of a patient who is facing a murder
trial that if he is guilty they are executed.
‣ if he is competent than he is guilty and killed: what do you do?
‣ the accused is the client: the potential that they are competent to stand trial where they face
the death penalty. there is no right or wrong answer.
◦ can you be fired for following your guidelines? yes
◦ Privilege: not just between therapist and their client; attorney-client, spouse, clergy] the law does not
require you to testify against these relationships. ‣ spousal privilege and lawyer client privilege is unbreakable;
• Legal Issues:
◦ people in social conflict: dysfunctions (behaviours) can lead to social conflict and they could break the law
‣ the laws are designed to prevent social conflict
‣ society says "stop it, other people do not like that"
◦ power of mental health professionals:
‣ two parties: client may come into conflict with the law and may break them
‣ what can mental health professions do legally or illegally.
◦ ask to assess client a client on trial for murder for competence
‣ Liable for actions: understand what they did and if what they did was wrong
• during the committing the crime did they know what they did was wrong? yes or no
• if after the assessment the person did not understand that what they did was wrong
◦ the legal system may determine if they were responsible for the crime or not.
◦ Insanity: not guilty; not responsible due to disorder; not criminal; now treated as mental health
◦ it is not the psychiatrist that decide this, it is the judge that finalizes the decision determining
the mental health of the client.
◦ Actus reus : "wrong behaviour"
‣ that you competently understand that what you have done you should not have done
‣ you understand what you have done
◦ mens rea: may be declared incompetent to stand trial.
‣ Mens rea and actus reus are legal terms used to define a crime. Both Mens rea and actus
reus must be present for an accused to be found guilty of a crime (except for strict liability).
Mens rea means that the person must have had a guilty mind at the time of committing the
crime - that is they must have intended to commit the crime.
‣ Actus reus means "wrongful act" - meaning that the person must have committed an act
that is defined as wrong by law.
‣ [ps, strict liability is a crime where mens rea is not needed - ie by going through a red light,
you are committing a crime, regardless of whether you knew you did it or not].
• 3 levels of law
◦ constitutional law; takes precedence over the next two
‣ set of rules dictated by the federal gov that we must live by
‣ not changeable unless all of the provence agree
‣ british north america act. 1984: not everyone liked it; Quebec demanded it be changed