Friends and Fans — I have retired from my work as a public intellectual, so Philosophy in Action is on indefinite hiatus. Please check out the voluminous archive of free podcasts, as well as the premium audio content still available for sale. My two books — Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame and Explore Atlas Shrugged — are available for purchase too. Best wishes! — Diana Brickell (Hsieh)

Honesty under Professional Confidentiality Standards

Q&A Radio: 26 July 2015, Question 1

I answered a question on honesty under professional confidentiality standards on 26 July 2015. You can listen to or download the podcast of just this question below – or check out the whole episode of Philosophy in Action Radio.

Do confidentiality standards justify privacy lies? Some professions, like those in clinical psychology, medicine, or law commonly utilize confidentiality standards that apply between professionals and clients due to the sensitive nature of the information shared between them. Generally, such professionals can (and do) have a policy of refusing to answer any questions about their clients and so avoid any supposed need for privacy lies to protect from nosy inquiries. However, these standards also often include the understanding (sometimes explicit) that, if professional and client should ever meet in a social situation, the professional would follow the client's lead about if and how they knew each other. This means that a client could push the professional into a lie. Yet even in the case where both people are basically honest, the mere act of showing recognition of each other could compromise the client's privacy if the professional's job is not a secret. And there are reasonable social situations in which you couldn't hide familiarity without deceit of some kind. So ethically, we seem to be stuck between (1) clients having their privacy perhaps violated if they are unlucky enough to encounter their professional outside the office or (2) professionals having to lie to protect the privacy of their clients. Is there another alternative here? If not, what's the best course?

My Answer, In Brief: Professional standards to protect the privacy of a relationship between therapist and client are not dishonest and perfectly justified. They make the therapeutic relationship possible, and because everyone knows or should know the rules, failing to recognize a client is no more dishonest than bluffing in poker.

Tags: Business, Context, Ethics, Honesty, Law, Privacy, Privacy Lies, Psychology, Therapy


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About Philosophy in Action

I'm Dr. Diana Brickell (formerly Diana Hsieh). I'm a philosopher, and I've long specialized in the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. I completed my Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2009. I retired from work as a public intellectual in 2015.

From September 2009 to September 2015, I produced a radio show and podcast, Philosophy in Action Radio. In the primary show, my co-host Greg Perkins and I answered questions applying rational principles to the challenges of real life. We broadcast live over the internet on Sunday mornings.

You can listen to these 362 podcasts by subscribing to the Podcast RSS Feed. You can also peruse the podcast archive, where episodes and questions are sorted by date and by topic.

My first book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. The book defends the justice of moral praise and blame of persons using an Aristotelian theory of moral responsibility, thereby refuting Thomas Nagel's "problem of moral luck." My second book (and online course), Explore Atlas Shrugged, is a fantastic resource for anyone wishing to study Ayn Rand's epic novel in depth.

You can also read my blog NoodleFood and subscribe to its Blog RSS Feed.

I can be reached via e-mail to diana@philosophyinaction.com.

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