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Willful Exposure

Feb 9, 2006

In Texas, is a psychologist mandated to inform an intended victim of a willful exposure to HIV? If a client tells the therapist he/she is mad at someone and is going to have sex and infect the person---what are the legal and ethical requirments for the mental health professional in Texas?

Response from Dr. Horwath

I don't know the laws of Texas, so I can't answer your question directly with regard to Texas.

In general, there have been some court cases that established that therapists have some duty to protect others if they know in advance that a patient intends to harm someone else, but the legal requirements vary from state to state. Court decisions such as Tarasaoff v. California Board of Regents established a duty to warn and protect. In Tarasoff, duty to warn refers to the responsibility of a counselor or therapist to breach confidentiality if a client or other identifiable person is in clear or imminent danger. Other cases have made similar findings regarding duties to warn and/or protect.

All of these cases, however, have recognized that there is a conflict between the duty to protect the confidentiality of a patient and the duty to warn or protect third parties from harm. The courts have been somewhat ambivalent in coming to a clear definition of these conflicting interests.

what is he waiting for?
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