Respecting Others With Informed Consent
A review of the cases opened by the APA Ethics Committee during the past few years ( APA, 1995, 1996, 1997a) suggests that issues of informed consent are not ones that trouble psychologists. Similarly, in their survey of ethical dilemmas encountered by APA members, Pope and Vetter ( 1992) did not highlight informed consent as an area that psychologists identify as troublesome. On the other hand, problems related to consent are often implicit in the problems psychologists face and in cases adjudicated by the Ethics Committee. Further, questions relating to informed consent regarding the therapeutic contract underlie most cases involving professional liability ( Bennett, Bryant, VandenBos, & Greenwood, 1990). Take the following three cases as examples:
Case 5-1: A psychologist was asked by a court to act as a mediator in a custody case. Prior to beginning the mediation, the psychologist explained the nature of mediation and how they would be meeting together to find a satisfactory custody arrangement for the couple's daughter. After five sessions, however, the conflict between the couple was so great that they discontinued the mediation. The psychologist referred the case back to the court and voluntarily submitted a custody evaluation to the court on both parents recommending that custody be awarded to the mother because she had been more willing to compromise during the mediation. On learning that the psychologist had submitted the evaluation reports, both parents were upset because they had not been informed ahead of time that their behavior was being evaluated during the mediation process ( APA, 1987a, p. 78).
Case 5-2: A group of researchers ( Campbell, Sanderson, & Laverty, 1964)