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Human Service Professionals

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Interoffice Memo

To: Human service professionals


Subject: Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California

Date: September 11, 2013


In 1976, the California Supreme Court has ruled in Tarasoff case that there is a duty to warn potential victims of danger. As a human service professional it is our "Duty to Warn" and notify appropriate parties immediately. The new legislation does not breach any code of ethics when someone's life is being threatened; the clients' right to privacy and confidentiality are void. This legislation protects human service professionals and the organization for being held responsible for any actions taken. There are many concerns about the implications of the Tarasoff case, especially around the confidentiality of the client-professional relationship. The environment has changed for human services and confidentiality, as workers now divulge confidential information to third-parties. As in the Tarasoff ruling, the statute notes that the principle of duty to warn is an exception to the general principle that a social worker shall not disclose any information about a client acquired from or revealed in the course of or in connection with the performance of the social worker's professional services. The exception requiring the social worker to disclose the client's confidential information occurs when there is an explicit threat to kill or inflict serious bodily injury upon a reasonably identified victim or victims and the client has the apparent intent and ability to carry out the threat.

The law is generally supportive of, or at least neutral toward, ethical codes and standards. It is supportive in that it enforces minimum standards for practitioners through licensing requirements and generally protects the confidentiality of statements and records provided by clients during service provision. It is neutral in that it allows each profession to police itself and govern the helper's relations with clients and fellow professionals. The law intervenes and overrides professional codes of ethics only when necessary to protect the public's health, safety, and welfare. The areas of confidentiality, role conflict, and counselor competence frequently



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