Although the death penalty is on the decline in the United States, the case of James Rhodes highlights the ethical quagmire facing forensic psychiatrists and psychologists whose evaluations contribute whether persons with intellectual disabilities convicted of murder will live or die.
In addition to the increasingly familiar racial biases and legal flaws in death penalty convictions and use of lethal injection, according to Celia B. Fisher, Ph.D. Director of Fordham University’s Centerfor Ethics Education, little attention has been paid to the lack of professional consensus surrounding the validity and reliability of IQ tests in general and for racial minorities in particular, disagreement over the use of absolute cut-off scores to determine intellectual disability, and the inherent fallibility of tests to determine the probability of future violence.
“Professional evaluations are not a panacea for inconsistent, uninformed and often racially biased jury decisions,” notes Fisher, “rather than providing a fair and neutral assessment of mental ability forensic assessments are contributing to inconsistencies that lethally violate the human rights of convicted criminals in capital cases.”
For more information on the ethics of psychologists’ involvement in death penalty evaluations – particularly for defendants with mental disabilities Dr. Fisher’s 2013 article in Ethics & Behavior entitled “Human Rights and Psychologists’ Involvement in Assessments Related to Death Penalty Cases.”
Celia B. Fisher, Ph.D. is the Marie Ward Doty University Chair, Professor of Psychology, and Director of Fordham University’s Center for Ethics Education. She chaired the 2002 revision of the American Psychological Association’s Ethics Code and is the author of Decoding the Ethics Code: A Practical Guide for Psychologists, now in it’s fourth edition, from Sage Publications.
Posted in Bioethics, In the News, Uncategorized
Tagged American Psychological Association, Bioethics, Capital punishment, Celia B. Fisher, death penalty, Ethics, Justice, New York Times, Psychology
As the 2016 presidential election approaches, psychologists are gaining media attention by diagnosing candidates as having personality disorders, especially for the Republican nominee. But the public should question whether or not offering these diagnoses is professionally ethical or in the service of political agendas.
As reflected in a recent New York Times article, the candidacy of Donald Trump has tempted some psychologists to abandon their unique training in mental health assessment and provide unprofessional diagnoses of Mr. Trump that, according to Celia B. Fisher, Director Fordham University’s Center for Ethics Education, “distort the values of their profession and violate the public trust”.
“Trained mental health practitioners serve the public good by providing diagnoses of individuals based on scientifically and professionally established assessment techniques,” notes Fisher, who chaired the committee that wrote the current American Psychological Association’s (APA) Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct, “however the public and the profession are harmed when psychologists provide opinions based on unsubstantiated information drawn from media reports or other subjective observations.”
There have been claims suggesting that psychologists who offer diagnoses of Donald Trump are doing so for the purpose of national and public interest. According to Fisher, who is the author of the widely read Decoding the Ethics Code: A Practical Guide for Psychologists, “Psychologists who claim that ‘Trumpism’ is a threat to democracy that provides moral justification to offer public diagnoses in the absence of established assessment techniques are deluding themselves into thinking that these unprofessional opinions benefit society.” Fisher further explains that psychologists are actually in “clear violation of the APA Ethics Code and are inadvertently contributing to a political climate based on opinion rather than fact.”
Celia B. Fisher, Ph.D. is the Fordham University Marie Ward Doty University Chair in Ethics and Director of the Center for Ethics Education. In addition to chairing the 2002 revision of the American Psychological Association’s Ethics Code, Fisher’s Decoding the Ethics Code: A Practical Guide for Psychologists, is now in its fourth edition from Sage Publications.
Posted in Contemporary Ethical Issues, In the News, Uncategorized
Tagged American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, APA, Celia B. Fisher, Decoding the Ethics Code, diagnosis, Donald Trump, Ethics, Ethics Code, Fordham University, New York Times, psychologists, Psychology
As consumers of the media, it is not uncommon to “diagnose” public figures with various mental disorders, depending on their representation in the press. But for psychologists and psychiatrists, is doing so unethical?
In an op-ed in The New York Times, Columbia University’s Dr. Robert Klitzman explained that for psychiatrists like himself, there is a prohibition from the American Psychiatric Association on providing professional opinions on individuals they have never met or evaluated before.
Troublingly, though, Klitzman mentions that “Psychologists (with Ph.D.s, as opposed to psychiatrists, with medical degrees) argue that this principle does not fully apply to them, and that offering diagnoses of public figures can be in the national interest.”
According to Fordham University Center for Ethics Education Director, and chair of the 2002 American Psychological Association’s Ethics Code Task Force Dr. Celia B. Fisher, that is not accurate.
Posted in Contemporary Ethical Issues, In the News
Tagged American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, APA, Celia B. Fisher, Columbia University, Decoding the Ethics Code, diagnosis, Donald Trump, Ethics Code, Fordham University, New York Times, op-ed, psychiatrists, psychologists, Robert Klitzman
Dr. Adam Fried
For more information, please visit & “like” RELAY: Resources & Education for LGBT & Allied Youth: www.facebook.com/lgbtrelay
Psychologists who provide mental health services to adolescents and their families must navigate complex ethical challenges with respect to confidentiality and disclosure decision-making.
How do mental health clinicians develop confidentiality policies that serve to protect minors from serious harm, fulfill professional and legal responsibilities, and preserve the therapeutic relationship with the adolescent and parents/ guardians?
Posted in Contemporary Ethical Issues, Evidence-Based Ethics
Tagged Adam Fried, Adolescents, American Psychological Association, APA, Bioethics, confidentiality, disclosure, Fordham University, privacy, psychologists, psychotherapy, therapist
On Wednesday, November 18th, the Fordham University Center for Ethics Education
will host a seminar exploring faculty responsibilities towards students in distress. The event will take place from 12:00 – 1:15 p.m. in Keating 124, on the Rose Hill Campus.
A report released today is a major step in President Obama’s commitment to expand the number of states enacting “Leelah’s Law,” which would ban the use of conversion therapy to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of lesbian, gay and transgender children and youth.
Dr. Celia B. Fisher, Director of the Fordham University Center for Ethics Education and the Marie Ward Doty Endowed Chair and Professor of Psychology served on the expert consensus panel whose recommendations form the basis of this report.
Posted in Bioethics, Contemporary Ethical Issues, In the News
Tagged American Psychological Association, APA, Celia B. Fisher, Conversion Therapy, Leelah Alcorn, Leelah's Law, mental health professionals, pseudoscience, report, SAMHSA, White House