There are two issues in this case that stand out when considering professional ethics. First, was the doctor, that is, John Smith justified in rigorously protecting his clients’ confidentiality by failing to report the cases of child abuse? Second, what should John Smith have done? The first issue of professional ethics requires a “no” or “yes” answer whereas the second issue is open-ended. This means that there are a number of options that the doctor could explore in dealing with the issue at hand that adhere to professional ethics. We will examine the both questions regarding whether the doctor was justified in keeping his sessions completely confidential and in the process failing to report the cases of child abuse to the relevant authority, as well as, what he should have done.
If the question were to be answered directly, then a “no” or “yes” answer would suffice pertaining to the doctor’s rigorous confidentiality. On the other hand, a more comprehensive answer would require the use of normative ethical theories to put the actions of the doctor in perspective. Notwithstanding, we will not be limited to the normative ethical theories only. Professional ethics like this also require the inclusion of other rules, moral values, precepts, as well as, various pertinent facts such as the client base of the doctor. If the moral values relating to the profession will permit us to make a sound judgment, then it is advised that we incorporate them in our analysis. However, it may not be wise to append moral value when dealing with the normative ethical theories as it may cloud the criteria of analysis that each theory follows.
According to Kantian deontology, a professional’s actions are analyzed with reference to his or her duty. It is advisable to test a person’s actions using the essential precept of the categorical imperative as is dictated by Kantian deontology normative ethical theory to know his or her duty. To make matters simple, we will look at a maxim from the doctor’s view and test it against the categorical imperative. Doctor John Smith is a psychiatrist and subscribes to one of the fundamental principles of therapy, that is, confidentiality. Doctor John Smith’s maxim could be “I should maintain rigorous patient confidentiality and fail to report the cases of child abuse to social services if the act of reporting will hurt my patients.” If the maxim were to be generalized, then it would be “Everyone should and fail to report the cases of child abuse to social services if the act of reporting will hurt a child-abusing parent.” The next step is to ask ourselves if the generalized rule will meet the requirements of passing Kant’s categorical imperative.