Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Now the Web complicates ethics for therapists and patients -- in both directions

User-generated content and medicine came up again this morning in a front page Washington Post article (Tuesday, March 30) with respect to therapists (psychiatrists, psychotherapists) and their patients. The story title is “Google and Facebook raise new issues for therapists and their clients”, by Dana Scarton, link here.


Should therapists go online and look at what their patients write? It’s obvious that one could get some “insights” into someone from what they write (just look at the news stories on the Internet postings of those who later commit crimes – the legal system has to wonder when writings are “evidentiary” or a “propensity” for “pre-crime” – like in the movie “Minority Report”). Likewise, as we have written before, doctors are increasingly concerned about user-generated online “ratings” and gag order contracts have developed.

In my own case, back in early 1962 (look at the posting here Nov. 28, 2006) psychiatrists supposedly relied on what they learned from me directly in therapy (sometimes group therapy, and later at NIH, family therapy, and interviews with family). I have my patient records from NIH and there is a surprising amount of perceptive psychological detail that still would make sense today (with sufficient “audience preparation”). There are some details in the narratives of what had happened at William and Mary in 1961 that are, however, in subtle but critical details, incorrect. I guess I’m the best source as to telling the story as to what really happened, even if it takes a movie.

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