Dr. Daniela Yeung, a community psychologist, has been conducting a federally funded ethnographic study of men’s attitudes toward intimate partner violence following conviction and release from prison for spousal abuse. Over the course of a year, she has had individual monthly interviews with 25 participants while they were in jail and following their release. Aiden, a 35-year-old male parolee convicted of seriously injuring his wife, has been interviewed by Dr. Yeung on eight occasions.
The interviews have covered a range of personal topics including Aiden’s problem drinking, which is marked by blackouts and threatening phone calls made to his parents and girlfriend when he becomes drunk, usually in the evening. To her knowledge, Aiden has never followed through on these threats. It is clear that Aiden feels very comfortable discussing his life with Dr. Yeung. One evening Dr. Yeung checks her answering machine and finds a message from Aiden. His words are slurred and angry: “Now that you know the truth about what I am you know that there is nothing you can do to help the evil inside me. The bottle is my savior and I will end this with them tonight.” Each time she calls Aiden’s home phone she gets a busy signal.
Dr. Yeung has Aiden’s address, and after 2 hours, she is considering whether or not to contact emergency services to go to Aiden’s home or to the homes of his parents and girlfriend.
Why is this an ethical dilemma? Which APA Ethical Principles help frame the nature of the dilemma?
Does this situation meet the standards set by the Tarasoff decision’s “duty to protect” statute? How might whether or not Dr. Yeung’s state includes researchers under such a statute influence Dr. Yeung’s ethical decision making? How might the fact that Dr. Yeung is a research psychologist without training or licensure in clinical practice influence the ethical decision?
How are APA Ethical Standards 2.01f, 3.04, 3.06, 4.01, 4.02, 4.05, and 8.01 relevant to this case? Which other standards might apply?
What are Dr. Yeung’s ethical alternatives for resolving this dilemma? Which alternative best reflects the Ethics Code aspirational principles and enforceable standards, legal standards, and obligations to stakeholders?
What steps should Dr. Yeung take to implement her decision and monitor its effect?