Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Should psychologists take the Hippocratic oath?

Salon has a good article this morning about a debate within the American Psychological Association about the ethics of Psychologists participating in interrogation sessions. Before reading the article, I hadn't really thought about the problems in that one, though of course it all seems obvious in retrospect.

Psychologists have the means, one would assume, to break prisoners down more quickly and efficiently. And with less physical means that don't leave visible scars. (For contrast, both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association have some out with strong statements against, well, hurting people.)

Thinking over this one, my instinct is to say "Gee, psychologists should have to swear to 'first do no harm' like doctors do."

But I always try to check myself when I am tempted to say "Gee, SOMEBODY should MAKE those people stop doing that." And indeed, the issue may be more complicated than I'm seeing. Surely the marketing firms for fast food companies and tobacco companies hire psychologists to convince people to consume things that may be harmful. That's basically bad, but I am hesitant to want to legislate against it. (Naturally, the legislation would be within the APA anyway.)

Any thoughts?



Anonymous Poster said...

I can't see where requiring psychologists to ake a version of the Hypocratic Oath would make any real difference, since a reasnably astute layman can do anything that a psychoogist does.
It gets more ineresting when we talk about scientists, who, like doctors have some kind of specialized knowledge. Should we require physicists to "do no harm?" What abou chemists?

LaReinaCobre said...

The thing that can't be emphasized enough here is that this is psychologists working this out for themselves what will be their professional standards.

kim said...

I am under the impression that there are several levels of certification for doing therapy -- including no certification at all. If the profession feels that it should institute an ethical requirement for certain levels of certification, I think it would only enhance the professionalism of the certification.
Unfortunately, people break oaths all the time.

ABabyBoomerDoc said...

Read this for an explanation of how *First Do No Harm* really isn't a part of the Hippocratic Oath. My own medical school didn't use a version of it but instead used the *Oath of Geneva* adopted by the World Medical Association in 1948.

SC Universalist said...

Hmm, I guess I need to clarify some things are. As a rule of thumb - Psychologists are those of who a doctorate in Psychology. Most* Psychologists do not do therapy at all - but instead do testing or consulting. .
Certification is generally by the organization, while licensing is generally by the state.

and because someone always wants to know: a Psychiatrist is a medical doctor when training in psychiatry.

SR (who is not a Psychologist)

* Ok, i dont really know how many, I assume it to be "most". I didnt look it up. Most of the ones I know don't do therapyfull time. YMMV

kim said...

SC -- that's presumabley because you don't live in California, where everybody goes into therapy.... ;-)

Kim said...

(sorry about the typo...)

PG said...

I'm confused by what you mean by "SOMEBODY should MAKE those people stop doing that." There's a lot of writing out about professionalism generally, and how we impose standards on physicians and lawyers in return for letting them do things that non-physicans and non-lawyers aren't allowed to do. (Whether the state should enforce prohibitions against people with "Law/ Medicine for Dummies" books practicing those professions is a related controversy.)

As far as I know, there is no government-enforced prohibition on unlicensed practice of psychology. Only psychiatrists (i.e., physicians) can issue prescriptions, but I'm pretty sure anyone can offer "counseling" and the customer must decide for herself whether the counselor's credentials are any good. One of those credentials may be membership in the APA, and I think the APA should feel free to kick out members who fail to abide by their standards.

Doctors who participate in executions or torture are more complicated. I really dislike medical things facilitated by people who don't regard the subjects as patients and don't see their first responsibility as being to them. The closest I could approve a doctor coming to execution or torture is her being in the role of ensuring that no more harm is done than was intended. In executions, this would be preventing the punishment from being "cruel"; in torture, preventing the pain or suffering from reaching the point of "severe."

Lawyers are different, because they have "clients" rather than "patients." It was not the job of the torture memos' authors to protect detainees from torture; it was their job to protect the U.S. from losing in court. I think their work may have been immoral, but it was not professional unethical; indeed, writing anything less may have been a failure in their obligation to their client. An attorney assigned to a detainee, on the other hand, should be disbarred if he fails to give his client the zealous advocacy to which all are entitled.

Anonymous said...

"I can't see where requiring psychologists to ake a version of the Hypocratic Oath would make any real difference, since a reasnably astute layman can do anything that a psychoogist does."

I am sorry but I know for a fact that psychologists do have special training and know more than a resonably astute laymen knows... Not to be full of myself but i bet that if we were both given a person to analyze, me a psychologist and you, i am presuming not to be a psychologist, i would come out the more accurate analysis and would be able to help the client/patient solve the problem better...

Anonymous said...

all psychologists should be banned they are all crazy, they have less if no restrictions, and doctors have psyics are a danger to society