Continuing Education & Resources for Mental Health Professionals

Ethical Practice Model Adapted for Assessment Cases

Protecting Confidentiality Rights: An Ethical Practice Model

(Adapted for Use in Assessment Cases)

Mary Alice Fisher, Ph.D.

 I. PREPARE

            A. Understand Clients’ Rights and Your Ethical Responsibilities in Behalf of Those Rights

Rights of Person Being Evaluated

Rights of Person/Agent/Agency Contracting for the Evaluation

Rights of Others?

            B. Learn the Laws that Can Affect Your Ability to Protect Confidential Research Information

            C. Clarify Your Personal Ethical Position About Confidentiality and its Legal Limits in Assessment

            D. Decide When/How You Will Limit Confidentiality Voluntarily

            E. Develop Plan for Ethical Response to Laws That Require You To Disclose “Involuntarily”

            F. Choose Reliable Ethics Consultants and Legal Consultants and Use as Needed

            G. Devise Informed Consent Forms that Reflect Your Real Intentions

            H. Prepare to Discuss Confidentiality and Its Limits in Understandable and Age-Appropriate Language

 II. TELL PROSPECTIVE EXAMINEES THE TRUTH  (Inform Their Consent)

            A. Inform Prospective Examinees About Limits of Confidentiality

            B. Inform if You Have Third Party Contracts That Give Others Right to Obtain Assessment Results

            C. Inform About Foreseeable Uses & Potential for Future Disclosures of the Information to be Gathered

            D. Inform About Factors That Might Influence Willingness to Participate  (e.g., Risks/Benefits)

            E. Inform About Right to Decline to Participate & Consequences of Declining/Withdrawing

            F. Explain Any Roles or Potential Conflicts of Interest That Might Affect Confidentiality

            G. Obtain Consent From Informed Examinee (or Guardian) to Participate Under These Conditions         

 III. OBTAIN INFORMED CONSENT BEFORE DISCLOSING ANYTHING VOLUNTARILY

            A. Respect the Rule: Disclose Without Examinee’s Consent Only if Legally Unavoidable

            B. Inform Subject Adequately About Content and Implications of the Potential Disclosure

            C. Obtain and Document the Subject’s Consent Before Disclosing

 IV. RESPOND ETHICALLY IN LEGALLY-IMPOSED DISCLOSURE SITUATIONS

            A. Notify Examinee of any Pending Legal Demand for a Disclosure Without Subject’s Consent

            B. Respond According to Plan (from Step 1,E above)

            C. Limit Disclosure of Confidential Information to the Extent Legally Possible

 V. AVOID PREVENTABLE BREACHES OF CONFIDENTIALITY

            A. Avoid Making Unethical Exceptions to the Confidentiality Rule

            B. Establish and Maintain Protective Policies and Procedures; Train Staff  & Technical Assistants

            C. Monitor Note Taking, Report Writing, and Record Keeping Practices

            E. Anticipate Legal Demands; Empower Examinees to Act Protectively in Their Own Behalf

            F. Protect Examinee Identity in Presentations, Consultations

VI. TALK ABOUT CONFIDENTIALITY

            A. Model Ethical Assessment Practices; Confront Others’ Unethical Practices

            B. Provide Peer Consultation About Confidentiality Ethics in Assessment Cases

            C. Teach Ethical Practices to Students, Supervisees, Employees, Agency, Institution     

Adapted From:  Fisher, M.A. (2008). Protecting Confidentiality Rights: The Need for an Ethical Practice Model.
American Psychologist, 63 (1), 1-13.
(Article available in html at http://www.CenterForEthicalPractice.org/Article-ProtectingConfidentialityRights.htm)

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