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Discuss Conflicts Between Ethics and Law, Regulations, or Other Governing Legal Authority

Discuss Conflicts Between Ethics and Law, Regulations, or Other Governing Legal Authority

If psychologists’ ethical responsibilities conflict with law, regulations, or other governing legal

authority, psychologists clarify the nature of the conflict, make known their commitment to the

Ethics Code and take reasonable steps to resolve the conflict consistent with the General

Principles and Ethical Standards of the Ethics Code. Under no circumstances may this standard be

used to justify or defend violating human rights.

This standard, amended in 2010 (APA, 2010a), addresses instances in which the

requirements of the Ethics Code may conflict with judicial authority, with state or

federal laws, or with regulations governing the activities of psychologists working

in the military, correctional facilities, or other areas of public service. Standard 1.02

requires that psychologists take action when conflicts between the Ethics Code and

laws, regulations, or governing legal authority arise. As highlighted in Chapter 3,

psychologists must have sufficient understanding of the Ethics Code standards to

identify such conflicts. Specific steps that may be taken include informing appropriate

authorities of the conflict and explaining the rationale for the Ethics Code


lesbian patients who reported that participation in “reparative therapy” had successfully

reoriented them to heterosexuality. The paper was immediately seized on as supporting

evidence by groups who believed sexual orientation was a choice and by politicians to

argue against civil unions. Dr. Spitzer was aware of these responses to his paper, as well

as serious methodological flaws in his research, but he convinced a colleague who was a

journal editor to publish the article without undergoing the traditional peer review. It was

not until 2012 that Dr. Spitzer wrote the gay community an apology for the harm that

resulted from misinterpretation of his work (Carey, 2012).

􀀵 A psychologist who had received a court order for confidential information sent a

letter to the judge explaining the relevant confidentiality standards in the Ethics

Code and requesting judicial review to determine whether a limited release of

information would meet legal requirements (Standard 4.01, Maintaining


􀀵 A correctional psychologist refused a request from the prison warden to draw upon

his therapy sessions with a prisoner to help the warden recommend punishment for

the prisoner after he had gotten into a fight with a fellow inmate. The psychologist

explained to the warden that to do so could violate several ethical standards, including

Maintaining Confidentiality.

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