Ethical Issues during Forensic Assessments

Ethical Issues in Forensic Assessment

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For a therapist, the individual presented for the treatment; however, this is not the case for forensic evaluations. The distinction, therefore, carries the important ramification on informed disclosure or consent as well as the control and use of the proper monitoring of the information obtained during the evaluation(Kalmbach, & Lyons, 2006). Forensic evaluation in most circumstances involves limited contact, an impartial stance, an adversarial forum and a critical assessment style rather thanmere assertion by the client (examinee). Thus, forensic psychology is a unique niche that requires high ethical standards with a focus on issues including clarification of roles, confidentiality and intended use and or potential recipients(Kalmbach, & Lyons, 2006). Forensic assessment professionals participating in the right forum need to ensure that their actions and practice meet the legal standards and general practice for which they are trained. Equally, it is important for them to understand the statutory regulations upon a forensic assessment testimony.

Appropriate ethical standards and forensic specialty guidelines the applies to the scenario

Forensic psychology refers to the professional practice by a psychologist working in any sub-discipline while using technical, scientific, or specialized knowledge to assist in addressing legal, administrative and contractual matters. The sub-disciplines in this include clinical, cognitive, social and developmental abilities. The guidelines applications apply in every sub-discipline hence following them provide a clear expertise in judicial, educational and administrative systems. However, psychology never gets considered as forensic since the conduct takes place in a judicial, administrative or legislative forum. American Psychology-Law Society documents some guidelines specifying the responsibilities and standards of application of forensic psychology under Division 41 of APA (American Psychology-Law Society, 2011).

Integrity implies that the practitioner needs to strive for honesty, accuracy, and or truthfulness while resisting partisan pressures. The practitioner should identify the client for whom he or she needs to meet. As per the case Scenario, Dr. Smith made arrangements to meet with the respondent and discuss the case. In legal practitioner have as a client an individual through his or her attorney, the person’s custodian or the court. In this case, the relationship between the respondent and the doctor was through the attorney. Therefore, through this step, it is important that that preparation for evaluation to understand the specific referral questions, the client and the person who will assess the report of the evaluation. Informed consent and disclosure determine how the assessment report will get shared before decisions made (American Psychological Association, 2010).

Informed consent seeks to describe an individual’s autonomy and respect for their dignity (American Psychology-Law Society, 2011). The important points to include are thename of person or agency requesting the evaluation, the limits of confidentiality, type of information requiring amandatory report for example child abuse. When offering opinions based on expertise, it is important that the forensic therapist is impartial and fair. It clearly indicates that there should not conflict of interest between the clinical officer and the client. Therefore, the clinical officer should refrain from taking roles in cases or evaluations when personal relationships and financial constraints affect his or her judgment. There should be high levels of professional competence and diligence during the assessment period with the defendant.

Examination of the limits of confidentiality. How these limits might be affected by some of the information contained in the scenario

In the legal research field, it is important to assume the non-confidentiality as a general matter to allow for credible evaluations. However, there are occasions where the examinee gets owed no duty of confidentiality. An example of this instance is a court or statute ordered evaluation. As an ethical standard, however, the doctrines of informed consent require that this individual gets informed in case of the outset of the absence of confidentiality(Kalmbach, & Lyons, 2006). The results of forensic examination remain protected by the attorney; unless the defense raises theissue of insanity thus waiving the confidentiality privilege. However, it is not right to offer complete privacy assurances. On the other hand, if the evaluation is court ordered, the defendant (examinee) should get notified that no privileges exist and the copies of the assessment will get issued to the judge and the prosecutor. The limits of confidentiality are described through the civil rights, Fifth Amendment and Sixth Amendment(Kalmbach, & Lyons, 2006). In civil rights, clinicians are required to respect the rights of those people or patients they serve. Therefore, the forensic psychologist has an ethical obligation to remain sensitive to the civil rights of a patient.

In evaluative context under criminal justice or crimes alleged, the evaluation results may pose threats to these rights. The fifth amendment of the constitution provides aprivilege against self-incrimination. This bill shows the belief that no accusedperson shall be coerced to give testimony as evidence against himself or herself.In Estelle v. Smith, the defendant’s Fifth Amendmentwas violated when his rights were not read to him. Therefore, the forensic psychologist must be aware that communicating any information about the examinee after an evaluation is considered prejudicial and therefore, they must exercise caution and obstruct themselves from giving information that is not psychological. The sixth amendment gives a person right to counsel. The forensic examiner should ensure that a patient gets legal representation before conducting an evaluation (American Psychological Association, 2010). In this case scenario, Dr. Smith provided that the attorney was present during the sessions. The attorney was the legal representation of the examinee. This principle protects the defendant’s rights and the examiner in case the evaluation becomes contested.

Particular circumstances in the case study in which there might be a duty to report or duty to warn

In the case scenario, Mr. Doe specifically states that he was angry that she cut all communication with him without giving any explanation. He spoke of her with rage and hostility as described in the scenario. According to his statement, he specifies that if he ever sees her again, he will kill her. According to the codes of conduct, the therapist is required to report or notify the authorities (American Psychological Association, 2010). This communication will allow the authorities to inform the coworker about the imamate danger suppose the offender is released. The duty to warn therefore applies in circumstances when the case or statutory law requires that the legal professional acts in good faith in informing the target. Here, target refers to the coworker.

The respondent’s understanding of what’s happening shows that he needs a lot of attention. He appears not to sit quiet and cannot answer thequestion that he ought to have answered during his session with Dr. Smith. He, therefore, answers the questions with assistance from the attorney. It is important to note that the offender should not get released on parole before rehabilitation. The 2006 Adam Walsh Child Protection, and Safety Act,signed by President Bush authorizes the civil commitment of inmates who are sexually dangerous. The offender should, therefore, be held indefinitely until he recovers completely and poses no threat to the society(Kalmbach, & Lyons, 2006).

Explanation of the limitation of what the evaluator can or cannot say

California Supreme Court upheld the law requiring clinical professionals to report an examinee who may pose any danger to the society (American Psychology-Law Society, 2011). Some instances require the forensic psychologist to require them to break the principle of confidentiality. The doctors are protected by certain rules that govern what to say or what not to say. According to the constitution, and the limitation of secrecy under civil rights, the psychologist remains with the privilege of protecting the reports of the evaluation long after the therapy gets completed. This shows that an individual has all the rights to determine who gets the report of the evaluation. Confidentiality gets broken when the offender reveals that he plans to participate in criminal acts (American Psychological Association, 2010). For example, Mr. Doe plans to kill his coworker. If the perpetrator hints on committing suicide and he or she proves that they are a danger to themselves and the society, the confidentiality principle gets broken. Discussing the limits of confidentiality allows the offender to understand that by giving any information, he or she will be held responsible for that in that the courts of law.

The implications of the third party observer to the evaluation

A third party with relevant and privileged information requires that necessary actions are taken to protect the client’s privacy. Through the data collection methods, interpretation, and written communications, information about a patient finds its way to a third party. Therefore, it is important to ensure that necessary measures are taken to prevent it from being shared further. An investigator’s job is to understand the person getting treatment. It is, therefore, important to include people from the same profession to help in the data collection process and avoid leakage of a client’s medical evaluation report to the public. This shows that a solicitor cannot become employed in gathering information about the customer.

The presence of a person not associated with the examiner during evaluation sessions discourages honesty more or so when the third party present is a friend, parent, attorney or a reporter from the court (American Psychological Association, 2010). In this case scenario, the attorney was present during the evaluation session. Hence this could have compromised the degree of honesty of Mr. Doe. According to research, it is shown that people who are through therapeutic sessions perform poorly in the presence of the third party. However, the presence of the third party is always accepted during forensic psychology sessions. Therefore, the overall mental evaluation is negative hence more research should be done in this field on how precisely it defines the poor performance of client’s and or patients.


American Psychological Association. (2010). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct including 2010 amendments. Retrieved from

American Psychology-Law Society. (2011). Specialty guidelines for forensic psychology: Adopted by APA Council of Representatives [Unofficial version]. Retrieved from SGFP_Final_Approved_2011.pdf

Kalmbach, K. C., & Lyons, P. M. (2006). Ethical issues in conducting forensic evaluations. Applied Psychology in Criminal Justice2(3), 261-290