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Cornell University School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions


Impact: How Law Affects Behavior

by Lawrence M. Friedman,
Psychology Today, October 6, 2016

In 1974, the California Supreme Court declared that a University of California psychiatrist had a duty to warn authorities that a student expressed an urge to kill his girlfriend. Arguing that many patients would not seek help without a guarantee of confidentiality, psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers petitioned the court to reconsider its decision. Surprisingly, the justices agreed. In 1976, the court modified its ruling, decreeing that rather than an absolute duty to warn, therapists must use “reasonable care” to protect people threatened by patients.


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