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American Annals of the Deaf

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Ethics in Mental Health and Deafness

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Breach of the Duty of Reasonable Care

Brad may argue each point, but the attorney for Eileenís family will have no trouble using the APA code to argue that Brad breached his duty of reasonable care with Eileen regarding multiple relationships [Sec. 1.17], exploitative relationships [Sec. 1.19], record-keeping [Sec. 1.24], informed consent [Sec. 4.02], as well as possibly boundaries of competence [Sec. 1.04] and test interpretation [Sec. 2.02] if there is any hint that Bradís projective training was deficient, or his projective test interpretations were without scientific basis. The attorney for Eileenís family will argue that these acts, these ethical violations, caused Eileenís death. The attorney for the family will argue that it was foreseeable. The APA ethical code and expert witnesses will be used to show that Brad was practicing outside the boundaries of acceptable practice in the community.


The attorney for Eileenís family has no problem showing that a young life was lost. The family will seek actual damages (i.e., hospital costs, funeral costs, lost income) and punitive damages for pain and suffering, arguing the outrageousness of Bradís professional conduct.

Case 2

Don is a 30-year-old deaf man who has been chronically unemployed for six years. He has just learned that he was rejected for a good paying Internet mail order clerk job two years ago because a hearing consulting psychologist had labeled him as mentally retarded during the pre-employment testing required of all applicants. Because of its small number of employees, this mail order company is not required to comply with Title I of the ADA.

Don is a healthy, highly motivated individual who indicated on his job application that he had earned a high school certificate of attendance. He also documented completion of a noncredit remedial reading course at the local community college.

Working without an interpreter, the psychologist administered the verbal and performance sections of a popular IQ test. When these scores were combined, Don was labeled as a person with mild mental retardation. Based on this assessment of Donís thinking ability, and perhaps some corporate discrimination against deaf job applicants, Don was turned down for the clerk job. In a phone conversation, the employer told Donís hearing parents that Don would have been hired if his IQ score had been higher.

Don was informed by a local attorney that he had no cause of action under the ADA; however, the attorney encouraged Don to sue the consulting psychologist for the malpractice that caused him to lose a substantial income for two years.

Again, go through the elements of a negligence/malpractice suit and the malpractice jury question. Where does the counselor stand? How might you have advised the counselor if you were his supervisor?

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