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Irina, a 13-year-old girl of Arabic cultural heritage living in Boston, Massachusetts,
was brought by her parents to a hospital emergency room after an assault by a
stranger. Based on her injuries, the hospital staff suspected that the attacker had
also sexually assaulted the girl, but she and her parents refused medical evaluations
for rape. The family received a referral to see Janet Matthews, a clinical psychologist
specializing in adolescent trauma. During their initial meeting with Dr. Matthews,
the parents asked the psychologist not to discuss any sexual aspects of the assault
with their daughter but to treat the psychological trauma from the assault in general.
They told the psychologist that admitting a rape had taken place would cast a
stigma on their daughter and make her ineligible to be married to men in their
closely knit ethnic community. When asked in private, the girl also requested that
sexual issues not be discussed for the same reason.
Dr. Matthews does not know if she should agree to the parents’ and child’s
Respond to the following questions in 1,250 to 1,500 words.
1. Why is this an ethical dilemma? Which APA Ethical Principles help frame the nature of the dilemma?
2. How might Irina’s age and parents’ involvement in the referral affect how Dr. Matthews can resolve the dilemma? How might the state law on treatment of minors and HIPAA rule on access of guardians to a minor’s health care record influence Dr. Matthews’ decision?
3. How are APA Ethical Standards 2.01a b, and c; 2.04; 3.04; 3.06; 4.01; 4.02; and 10.10a relevant to this case? Which other standards might apply?
4. What are Dr. Matthews’ ethical alternatives for resolving this dilemma? Which alternative best reflects the Ethics Code aspirational principle and enforceable standard, as well as legal standards and Dr. Matthews’ obligations to stakeholders?
5. What steps should Dr. Matthews take to ethically implement her decision and monitor its effects?
Fisher, C. B. (2013). Decoding the ethics code: A practical guide for psychologists. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
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