Special perspective an immodest proposal: should treating mental health professionals be barred from testifying about their patients?

Behav Sci Law. 1998 Autumn;16(4):509-23. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1099-0798(199823)16:4<509::aid-bsl324>3.0.co;2-y.


Notwithstanding ethical rules that address therapeutic and forensic role conflicts for psychologists and psychiatrists, overzealous patient advocacy by therapists, tightened reimbursement for therapy, and a growth market for forensic psychology and psychiatry, have led many therapists to appear willingly as forensic experts on behalf of their patients. Existing ethical rules, as well as other proposed approaches to address this problem, assume that it can be resolved by modest changes in existing practice that permit therapists to testify as long as their testimony avoids psycholegal opinions. This essay questions whether these modest changes can adequately address this problem and advances consideration of a more radical proposal to address this problem, prohibiting therapists from testifying about their patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Conflict of Interest
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Expert Testimony / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Forensic Psychiatry / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Patient Advocacy / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Physician's Role*
  • United States