Discuss the ethical issues presented in this scenario; identify the ethical code number and definition.

Patient confidentiality





Discuss the ethical issues presented in this scenario; identify the ethical code number and definition.

The ethical issue presented in this scenario is about patient confidentiality. According to the ACA Code of Ethics, sections B1.c Respect for confidentiality, Counsellors are not supposed to share confidential information without the consent of the client or without sound ethical or legal justification (ACA Code of Ethics, 2005). Counsellors are supposed to respect the rights of privacy clients have. Counsellors get private information from clients that are beneficial during the counselling sessions. Gaining a patient’s trust is the most important thing in any counseling relationship. Counsellors therefore strive to earn their clients trust through the creation of ongoing partnerships, establishing and maintaining appropriate boundaries and ensuring they maintain patient confidentiality (Cordess, 2001). Jay’s counsellor is faced with the ethical issue of weather to break patient confidentiality and share information of Jay’s suicide plan. As a counsellor, he is obliged to keep any information a client shares confidentially. However, in this case the client has shared with him that he intends to commit suicide. As the counsellor, he is in an ethical dilemma of weather or not to make this information known to others. By sharing the information, the counsellor would have broken the code of confidentiality for clients and counsellors.

Describe the limits of confidentiality that must be considered.

There are some limits of confidentiality that have to be considered in different cases. The requirement of keeping a patient’s information confidential does not apply when disclosing the information is required to protect a client from harm. Section B.1.c gives the exceptions of confidentiality stating that it is not applicable “when disclosure is required to prevent and imminent danger to the client…” (ACA Code of Ethics, 2005). The exception was written with a client who has suicidal thoughts in mind. It clarifies that it is the duty of counsellors to protect their clients from harm. If a counsellor believes a client is a danger to themselves or others, they must take the necessary steps to prevent the danger. The safety and well-being of a client should be given the first priority in all circumstances. In this case, a limit to confidentiality can be considered because disclosing the information would prevent Jay from committing suicide.

Justify whether or not the counselor would need to break confidentiality.

The counsellor would need to break confidentiality in this case. The counsellor would want the best for his client and hence can not sit back and allow him get through with his suicide threats. According to the information Jay shared, the counsellor was sure that he would go ahead and execute his suicide plan. Therefore, the counsellor needs to break confidentiality and share what Jay was planning to do. By breaking the confidentiality, he can be sure that Jay would get help and would not succeed in ending his life.

Describe the steps the counselor should follow if he or she finds it necessary to break confidentiality

The first step the counsellor should take is to examine to decide who to share the information. The counsellor might decide to share the information with Jay’s family or anyone Jay is living with. The choice will be based on the persons who can offer the help Jay requires. The next step will be contacting the person the counsellor will share the information. The counsellor will then disclose the information and plan on the way forward on how to assist Jay (Samuels, 2003).

Compare the ethical issues presented in this scenario to the APA’s ethical standards and describe the similarities or differences in the ethical codes using the following website:

The ethical issue presented in this scenario on patient confidentiality. The APA ethical standards have a principle of respect for people’s dignity and rights. Psychologists are supposed to give appropriate respect to the rights, worth and dignity of people. They are supposed to respect the rights of a client’s confidentiality, privacy keeping in mind that legal obligations can lead to inconsistency with their rights. These APA ethical standards and ethical codes are similar in that they both advocate for client confidentiality.


ACA Code of Ethics. (2005). Journal of Counseling & Development, 235-254. Top of Form

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Cordess, C. (2001). Confidentiality and mental health. London: Jessica Kingsley.

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Samuels, A. (2003). Patient Confidentiality. Medico-Legal Journal, 42-42.