Friday, May 25, 2012

Duty to Warn

Duty to Warn

The first mandatory reporting issue is the duty to warn. This issue has placed a tremendous pressure and responsibility on counselors and the profession, especially since the Tarasoff case (Simone & Fulero, 2005). Andrew, Kent, and Dirikantraport (2009) believe the "ambiguity about how to fulfill the duty to protect can arise because of a lack of clarity about the laws of many jurisdictions, the conflict between a duty to protect and the duty of confidentiality to the client, and the inexact science of predicting violence (p. 26). This mandate requires reporting to the appropriate authorities when a client is a danger to him or herself, or others.

In the state of Hawaii, psychotherapists have a duty to warn foreseeable victims of their clients as well as a duty to warn when clients are a danger to themselves (Hawaii State Legislature, 2011). Failure to do so has been documented in cases such as Tarasoff when such failure is life-threatening or deadly. Andrew, Kent, and Dirikantraporn (2009) suggest when a threat emerges within an intervention setting, the counselor must thoroughly assess the gravity and seriousness of the threat. Legal ramifications include fines and incarceration when the professional fails to issue warnings (Hawaii State Legislature, 2011).

Reporting Elder Abuse

The second issue is reporting elder abuse. This issue is somewhat complex because often times elders are abused or neglected by their caretakers who are members of their family. In these circumstances, the abuse goes unreported. Sadly for vulnerable populations like the elderly, they have no options to resolve the issues themselves, and may continue for extended periods.

The state of Hawaii requires licensed or registered professionals of the healing arts and any health-related occupation to mandate reporting neglect including physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, financial exploitation, caregiver neglect and self-neglect (State of Hawaii, Executive Office on Aging, n.d.). Failure to report the abuse and neglect of any vulnerable population is unethical and guilty of a misdemeanor. Although a misdemeanor charge seems almost contemptible considering the nature of these abuses, the Adult Protective Services does monitor each case.

Simone, S., & Fulero, S. M. (2005). Tarasoff and the duty to protect. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 11(1/2), 145–168.

State of Hawaii, Executive Office on Aging. (n.d.). Guidelines for Mandated Reporting., Official Website of the State of Hawaii. Retrieved April 30, 2012, from

Hawaii State Legislature. (2011). Rule 504.1 Psychologist-client privilege. Hawaii State Legislature. Retrieved March 26, 2012, from

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