Competing Ethical Interests Regarding Privacy and Accountability in Psychotherapy
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“Jane” is a mother of two, who was referred for psychotherapy. However, Jane had misgivings about engaging in the offered psychotherapy because of threats made by her domestically violent partner. The therapy sessions are audio recorded for the purpose of professional supervision and clinician reflective practices. Jane’s partner had threatened to subpoena the therapy recordings to legally separate Jane from her children. This article focuses on how three different parts of Jane’s multidisciplinary care (i.e. clinicians, policy professionals and medico-legal professionals) exhibit different competing ethical priorities. Psychotherapeutic clinicians private use of audio recordings of the therapy enhances patient care and their own professional development but with the risk of concealing possible unethical behaviour by either party. Medico-legal access to the therapy recordings preserves potentially relevant evidence in the pursuit of justice but risks the interpretation of the psychotherapeutic information outside of the therapeutic context. Policies advocating the inclusion of the therapy recordings in the medical record improves clinician (and health service) accountability but risks harming the vulnerable patient due to threats to patient-therapist confidentiality.
KeywordsPsychotherapy Patient privacy Health policy Medico-legal Confidentiality
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