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.”
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.
“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.”
Each day will feature two Fordham faculty members from different departments presenting on and discussing different topics in contemporary ethics. Using a team-teaching approach, this course brings together faculty from six disciplines to provide foundational knowledge about moral philosophy, moral theology, and bioethics, and features lectures and case discussion on issues of current social importance.
Clinical psychologists can face ethical dilemmas on a daily basis as a result of the nature of their work: clients revealing confidential and sensitive information during each session. Questions such as how to ethically terminate therapy and avoid “abandoning” a client, or how best to ethically address religious and spiritual issues in psychotherapy involving LGBT clients arise regularly in practice.
The Applied Developmental Psychology doctoral program at Fordham University takes a unique, multidisciplinary approach to the study of social issues. The Fordham program has introduced three new specialities: Families, Schools, and Society; Race, Ethnicity, and Culture; and Health, Illness, and Well-Being; all of which recognize the increasing need for multidisciplinary perspectives on health promotion research and interventions across the lifespan.
The program aims to increase understanding of developmental processes, including health, academic, cognitive, social, and emotional outcomes over time. To accomplish this, they are adding to their renowned faculty a position that is open to experienced scientists in public health, education and biopsychology. To learn more about the program, please visit the Fordham ADP website. For the announcement for the new position and information on how to apply, please see the ad listing.
On August 26, 2013, Dr. Adam Fried, Assistant Director of the Center for Ethics Education, gave the following address at the Academic Convocation for the Fordham College at Rose Hill Class of 2017. Dr. Fried was asked to speak on behalf of all members of faculty, and to welcome the new class to the Fordham University academic community. In case you were unable to attend, here is a transcript of the address:
Using Your Moral Compass to Navigate the College Experience
Thank you, Dean Parmach. Welcome students! I’m so honored and excited to have an opportunity to speak with you today.
First, let me tell you a little about what I do. I’m the assistant director of the Fordham Center for Ethics Education. We organize conferences and lectures, conduct research, administer an undergraduate essay prize in ethics, and offer a Master’s in Ethics and Society and an undergraduate interdisciplinary minor in bioethics. Our programs provide the Fordham community and the public with the knowledge and skills to shape a just society. At Fordham, I teach and my work centers on ethics. But I am also a clinical psychologist and I have worked with veterans, college students and at-risk children and adolescents. Although these two areas, ethics and psychology, may seem quite different, there is in fact a great deal of overlap.