Tarasoff v. Regents of California

Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California refers to a case involving the relationship between the psychiatrists, their patients, and the victims. The case, decided in the supreme court of California in 1976, involved the duty to protect as held by health care professionals. In this case, the professionals have a duty to protect anyone who is under threat from the patient under their care (Cohen, 1978). The responsibility to protect the target victim involves notifying the law enforcers, warning the target victim, and taking any other logical step to offer protection for the person being threatened.

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Importance of the Case to Social Workers

The case has major implications for the operation of the social workers because of the relationship between the professionals and their clients. According to the social work code of ethics, social workers have a priority to protect the interests of their clients (Assembly, 2008). Besides promoting the well-being of their clients, the social workers have an obligation of guarding the general interests of the clients. The social workers have the role of protecting the right to privacy and confidentiality of their clients. Therefore, this means that the professionals should not divulge any information given by the client in confidentiality. From such a point of view, the social worker is in a dilemma as far as the Tarasoff v. Regents of California is concerned.

The case requires that the social workers divulge information given to them by the clients in confidentiality. In the case, Prosenjit Podder has aired his intentions to kill Tatiana Tarasoff of the mental health professionals at Cowell Memorial Hospital of the University of California.  The information was given in confidentiality, but the professionals had a duty that superseded the rights of the client. Social workers have a duty to the client as well as a responsibility to the larger society. When it comes to legal situations, the law requires that the mental health professionals have a duty to protect the other members of the society against any danger posed by the clients (Assembly, 2008).  In this case, the social workers should also take into consideration the well-being and safety of others. In any event that the life of another person is in danger, the professionals should take the necessary steps to prevent the danger from occurring.

A Case Study

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A case involving Gene Colello, in 2001, involved the application of Tarasoff v. Regents of California. Gene informed his father about his intentions to kill Keith Ewing, who was his ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend. Dr. David Goldstein, Gene’s therapist, was informed by his father, leading to his hospitalization and evaluation for a day and release. He killed the victim and later committed suicide. The parents of the victim filed a case against the hospital and the therapist for failing to protect the victim. Although the information did not come from the perpetrator, the court ruled that there was no difference in whoever the informant was as long as the threat was communicated (Ewing, 2005). The duty to warn the victim applied in this case just like in Tarasoff v. Regents of California. As long as the social worker felt that the victim was in danger, there was the duty to warn the victim or inform the police to protect him. There was a risk that was posed to the intended victim that ended up in the death of the victim and the perpetrator, which could have been prevented if the warning was given.

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