Application of Ethical Code/Guidelines

Application of Ethical Code/Guidelines

Psychology professionals are held to certain codes of conduct. One of the guidelines that psychology professionals must follow is the American Psychological Association’s Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct. Another example is the American Psychology’s Law Society’s Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychologists. The APA’s code is put forth to provide supervision for professional psychologists and for their conduct. In the specialty guidelines for forensic psychologists, the manual states: “monitoring their professional conduct when acting in assistance to courts, parties to legal proceedings, correctional and forensic mental health facilities, and legislative agencies” (Forensic Specialty Guidelines, 1991, pg. 1). By having the basic standards and principles through the APA, forensic psychologists also follow the specialty guidelines so there is no room for ethical error.

Both of these codes of conduct can be applied to the case study of Sam and Dr. John P. Sam had served 24 years out of a 25 year sentence for murdering his wife. He would have been eligible for parole, however he attacked and murdered a correctional officer. Dr. P. assisted in Sam’s evaluation for his first murder trial. Dr. P. also works at the correctional facility in which Sam is serving his 25 year sentence. The District Attorney asked Dr. P to conduct another competency evaluation in regards to the correctional officer’s murdering. In the first trial of Sam pouring gasoline and lighting his wife on fire, the Doctor testified that Sam was responsible for his behavior. Dr. P. also testified that Sam was a psychopath due to his knowledge of the legal system and years of experience.  During the trial for the murder of his wife, Dr. P. also testified that he be given a capital punishment due to his history of violent behavior. With this in mind, Dr. P. brings up that if they would have given Sam that penalty, then maybe the correctional officer would still be alive as his prognosis was correct all along. Dr. P. also assisted in the detainment of Sam after the second murder. Sam was found competent again by the Doctor to stand on trial. He was found guilty and was given the death penalty. After this Dr. John P. was sought after by several media outlets and even a book deal.

With the synopsis of the case study, there are a few different ethical principles and codes that were broken. One of the codes that was broken was 1.02, Conflicts Between Ethics and Law, Regulations, or Other Governing Legal Authority. The doctor was involved in many different aspects of this case and could be a breach of ethics and law because he evaluated the defendant and helped detain him.  Another area is 3.08 Exploitative Relationships. This is put into place so the psychologist does not exploit persons in which they have evaluated or treated. If John P. decided to continue to a book deal and speak publicly about Sam, he is not only exploiting his client but is also breaking ethics code 4.01, Maintaining Confidentiality.  Psychology professionals have an obligation to keep client/patient information private and confidential (Ethical Principles Of Psychologists And Code Of Conduct 2010 Amendments, 2012).

Some could debate whether the code 4.07, Use of Confidential Information for Didactic or Other Purposes applies to this case study. The doctor was speaking about his client in public media without trying to disguise the person or situation. The case study did not reveal if the doctor had written consent. However one could argue that there is a legal authorization for doing so as Dr. P. went on to cross examine death penalty cases similar to Sam’s. All in all one could argue that roughly four of the Ethical Codes of Conduct were breached or somewhat broken in this case study (Ethical Principles Of Psychologists And Code Of Conduct 2010 Amendments, 2012).



American Psychological Association’s Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct. (2010). American Psychological Association, 1-15. Retrieved from

Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychologists. (1991). Law and Human Behavior, 15(6), 1. Retrieved from


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