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When A Health Professional Takes Advantage Of A Patient

3709 words - 15 pages

Picture yourself in this situation: A family member, extremely mentally troubled, has been seeing a psychologist for eight years. Over the course of this long therapy, you, as an interacting observer, see this relative’s mental and physical health deteriorate at an unsteady yet often exponentially quick rate. Between times of displayed complacency and calmness, you see climactic emotional outbursts that are always, though unbelievable to you at the time, outdone and outmatched by the next. You see this person controlled by not only anger but hate—hatred toward other family members; hatred that has burned like a wild fire for decades, always growing and with little hope of extinguishing; hatred that sometimes gets so out of hand that it will often attack even those most loved. You see this family member become increasingly fragile physically: not eating well or enough; not sleeping at all, and only a little after taking sleeping pills so strong they’d knock out a horse; skin so pale and weak against a bony skeleton that at times you find yourself looking directly into the face of a ghost. You hear implied threats of suicide often enough, but not too often, so that you don’t know what to make of them, whether they are true cries for help or a whole new method or angle of verbal manipulation. You see all this over time, all while this close relative of yours has been in therapy with the same psychologist for at least three hours per week, every week, for eight years.

What you don’t see is improvement. Though you can only speculate what issues and goals are being addressed in this relative’s therapy, you don’t see resolution on any one issue. You don’t see a forward progression since the first issues addressed eight years ago. In fact, you don’t even see the issues at the same level, for they’ve only intensified and magnified over time. Most importantly, you don’t see anything that would make you believe that the psychologist is doing something to change this—you don’t see him ending the therapy when realizing that his patient’s emotional status was not improving; you don’t see him referring his patient, your close family member, to someone else who might be more successful; you don’t see him do anything when approached by other family members with their concerns for the well-being of his patient, their loved one.

This case that I’ve just placed you in is possibly one of professional negligence. Negligence, defined in legal terms, is “conduct which falls below the standard established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm” (qtd. in Everstine 252). When put in a professional setting, this is called malpractice, which is “negligence in the execution of professional duties” (Everstine 252). And as described in the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Code of Ethics, the primary professional duty of the psychologist is to protect both the individual and society by aiming to “improve the condition”...

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