Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Doctor-Patient Confidentiality

By Rob Elder

Lauren Slater (The Way We Live Now, 1/26/03) proposes to stop therapists' abuse of patients by mandating that all psychiatrists and clinical psychologists offer tape recordings, videotapes and case files for peer review. The notion that you can't trust your own doctor but you can trust the entire profession is a dangerous leap of faith. Did the Catholic priesthood as a whole crack down on individual priests who abused their positions of power? Hardly. Why believe that mental health professionals would not similarly protect their own, rather than those they supposedly serve? At the very least, confidentiality of the doctor/patient relationship would be shredded. Who wants to reveal their darkest thoughts with the office door open?

This article was published in the NYTimes magazine on Sunday, Feb. 9.

Rob Elder is a Co-Director of Emerging Issues in Ethics Program at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.

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