Shrinks as Narcs for the State

Dr.Dimitri Vulis KOTM dlv at
Sat Aug 30 09:46:27 PDT 1997

Tim May <tcmay at> writes:

> I know a psychologist/therapist who is very worried about this issue, as
> are his associates. His records are no longer his, as he must inform the
> insurance agencies who are paying for his services what the diagnosis of a
> patient is.

Of course, the patient can choose to pay cash for the psychiatrist's
advice and not use the insurance.

> Further, those who visit doctors and shrinks are at risk for other reasons.
> The State has decreed that they "narc out" (inform on) their patients. Cf.
> Tarasoff, for example, which requires a mental health care professional,
> counselor, or doctor to inform the State if a client makes certain kinds of
> threats. This threat may cause the client to be locked up for observation.

I just happen to have been reading up on the Tarasoff case the other day,
so I'll clarify something.

A student at U.C.berkeley named Prosenjit Poddar became obsessed with his
fellow student Tatiana tarasoff, whom she met at a folk dance lessons
at the Internastional House. She kissed him at a new year's party, which
he interpreted as a proof that she wanted him. He secretly audiotaped their
conversations and spliced the tape so it sounded like she's saying she
loves him.

Poddar's been harrassing Tarassoff something awful and she was fully
aware that he's a dangerous nut. She took a vacation (supposedly to
get away from Poddar); soon after she returned, he killed her.

Before the murder, Poddar had gone to the campus psychologist and told him
about his obsession with Tarasoff. The psychologist, based on what the parient
said 1) tried but failed to have him involuntarily committed 2) notified
the campus police who detained and released Poddar, based on what the
the therapost said Poddar told him.

Tarasoff's parents sued the therapist, U.C.Berkeley, campus police (for
freeing Poddar), etc, for the wrongful death. The claim against the
therapist was that he should have notified Tarasoff that Poddar is
obsessed with her, in addition to calling the cops on his patient,
which he did. (Of course she already knew that all too well. If
she carried a gun and knew how to use it, she might still be alive.)

The California Supreme Court wrote in Tarasoff vs. Board of Regents (1976)
that "the protective privilege ends where public peril begins" and that
clinicians are obliged to use reasonable care to protect the potential
victim of a patient's violence, which may include warning the victim.

The duty of the clinician to notify the State if the patient says, e.g.,
that he intends to smoke pot, doesn't flow from the Tarasoff decision.

> (Many think this is as it should be. But why is this so? We don't require
> non-doctors and non-shrinks to report such threats. If Joe Cypherpunk tells
> me at a Cypherpunks meeting he thinks Janet Reno should be blown up on her
> September 7th visit to San Jose, I am under no obligation whatsoever to
> assist the police in verifying what his real intentions are, or of
> cooperating in any way. So why should a psychiatrist become a secret agent
> for the State? We live in a police state.)

A related question is, suppose a criminal happens to be religious and
confesses to a priest that he committed a crime (smoked pot, or whatever).
He is subsequently arrested and mentions to the cops that he confessed
to the priest. (Assume that the guy is an idiot, or else he wouldn't be
going to church in the first place :-)

Can the priest be prosecuted for not telling the cops about the confession?


Dr.Dimitri Vulis KOTM
Brighton Beach Boardwalk BBS, Forest Hills, N.Y.: +1-718-261-2013, 14.4Kbps

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