Moral justification for Tarasoff-type warnings and breach of confidentiality: a clinician's perspective

Behav Sci Law. 2001;19(3):345-53. doi: 10.1002/bsl.446.


After brief review of the background and context of the Tarasoff case and its impact on clinicians, the author examines the "Tarasoff warning," proposed in the 1974 Tarasoff opinion, from a moral position, with brief discussion of its clinical and risk management dimensions. Moral issues considered include confidentiality itself, agency, fiduciary duty, a shift in the victim paradigm, the emergency context, a novel risk, and a proposed approach. The dilemma presented by the original Tarasoff fact situation is re-examined. The author stresses the need for individualized responses to the risks posed by patients.

Publication types

  • Legal Case

MeSH terms

  • California
  • Confidentiality* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Duty to Warn / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Morals*
  • Psychotherapy
  • United States
  • Violence*