Sunday, April 01, 2007

Mock The Ethicist: My Head Exploding Edition

He finally did it. He's been threatening for awhile now, and he finally chose today to make my head explode. Oh... my... god. The absolute ignorance of this man. Its astounding... its colossal... its huge beyond imagination.

His answer to this week's first question is completely absurd and needs rebutting in full. Let's start with the question:

I am a schoolteacher. A teenager told me about her thoughts of suicide. To offer her hope, I told her that I had contemplated suicide decades ago and survived with the support of friends and doctors. She told her therapist about this — fine with me — who told our school social worker, who criticized my conduct to our principal, perhaps endangering my job. I’m not the therapist’s patient, but was it ethical of her to discuss me? — name withheld, Conn.

This is a beautiful question... easy enough to answer, but it deals with serious ethical issues. Now let's watch the master in action:

There is plenty of blame to go around: everyone acted imperfectly.

Oh really... funny, it just seems to me like the therapist should have kept eir damn mouth shut.

Although the therapist had no professional duty to you — as you note, you are not her patient — she erred by ordinary civilian standards when she chatted about you to the school social worker, passing along secondhand information that could be damaging.

Randy, have you ever bothered to research anything in your life? 'Cause, you see, the therapist probably breached eir professional duty to her client by talking about the content of their session. What the patient says during a private therapy session is generally assumed to be confidential, provided the patient and therapist have an ongoing therapeutic relationship and the discussion itself was conducted confidentially. Absent information to the contrary, I think its pretty safe to say that the therapist fucked up.

Even the student can be gently faulted for repeating your story without consent, although in her defense, she should have been able to rely on her therapist’s discretion.

And remember, boys and girls, make sure to get peoples' permission before you talk about them in therapy!

You, too, could be chided, at least for your naïveté. You should have anticipated that a young person might repeat such an emotionally fraught story about a teacher. Also questionable was your attempt to engage in a quasi-therapeutic relationship with a student in so fragile an emotional state.

Teachers... never, ever, ever try to console your students. It just leads to badness down the road. If you do so, however, Randy recommends that you charge them by the quarter hour for this quasi-therapeutic relationship.

He then goes on to give ethical advice about how to tell your friends that their fucking French chateau has bedbugs. What planet is Randy living on?


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