When Can a Therapist Be Sued for Confidentiality Breaches

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It’s important to feel comfortable talking to a therapist so that you can talk openly. However, there are times when therapists must breach confidentiality, for the safety of the patient or others. In these cases, therapists in Oregon should still only be sharing the minimum information necessary.

When Can a Therapist Break Confidentiality

If a patient is considered at serious risk of self-harm or suicide, and a therapist believes these thoughts will be acted on, they can tell someone to keep the patient safe. The same applies if a therapist believes their patient has the means and ability to harm others. This could mean contacting authorities or warning the person who might be harmed. An extreme medical emergency will likely require a responsible therapist to call for aid from medical professionals.

If a therapist suspects abuse, either of or by their patient, they can report this behavior. In Oregon, the ongoing abuse of a minor, elder, or someone mentally impaired is ethically obligated to be reported. If a therapist has reasonable evidence to suspect abuse, they can report that.

Sometimes, confidential information is shared between doctors and other healthcare providers to better coordinate your care. In cases like that, a therapist will likely ask you to sign a release of information.

Your information from therapy may also be requested by your insurance or by court order. Court order is rare, but often entails looking at specific therapy notes or asking your therapist to testify. Insurance requests are more common and are generally limited to dates and times of appointments.

When a Therapist Must Remain Confidential

In situations other than these, a patient must give express written permission for the use of their medical information with a third party. The above situations don’t require written permission, but they do require care in the amount of information revealed. Only the minimum amount of relevant information needs to be shared.

If you think your therapist has unlawfully breached confidentiality without cause, you want to talk to an attorney with experience in medical malpractice. Contact Shlesinger & deVilleneuve today.



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