Essay on Forensic Psychology and Ethical Implications

Published: 2021-06-23
1177 words
5 pages
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University of California, Santa Barbara
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Forensic psychology is arguably one of the most interesting sub-disciplines in the field of psychology. It entails the application of scientific and clinical specialties to law and law enforcement. When speaking about the use of clinical specialties, the discipline refers to qualities like assessment, treatment, and evaluation in a legal context (Ward, 2016). Forensic psychologists work with people who are in contact with the law or within the legal system. The locations that these psychologists can use as potential fieldwork professions include; in court, child social services, treatment programs for juvenile delinquents. Whether it is the defense of a clinically insane defendant or the assignment of foster children to their foster families, persons in contact with the field of forensic psychology often find experienced professionals with whom one can consult (Ward, 2016).

Military interrogations have been seen some of the most detrimental and psychologically maiming effects to prisoners. The ethical concerns that have been brought out with regard to these interrogations and the techniques that were used in the military during investigations. It is important to note that while the threats that the military is tasked with preventing are real, and had an immediate impact on the American society (Kalbeitzer, 2009). Issues like human rights and development of an ethical code of conduct define the approaches that are human and acceptable.

In the first and second world war, psychologists were employed by the military to assess the mental temperament of individuals going to war and treat those who came back in shell shock.' Prisoners of war were captured, and then, psychiatrists made suggestions on effective interrogation techniques (Chin, 2015). Military interrogations usually took a harsh and inhumane approach. The intention was to break the subjects through different therapies. Psychologists were meant to oversee the interrogations processes at military prison camps like Guantanamo Bay (Chin, 2015). The involvement of Psychologist during these interrogations saw their professional ethics and code of conduct deteriorate. The approaches to interrogating prisoners were designed by the psychiatrists inducted into the military.

It was not until 2004 that the practices at Military Camp and prisons were brought to light. The American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association made steps to stop all psychiatric involvement in the interrogation processes that took place in the region. Some of the influences that prompted this move were the ethical codes of medical practice (Chin, 2015). However, the value of psychologists was not completely dismissed in interrogations. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) continued to send psychiatrists to interrogations until 2015 when it was completely prohibited (Chin, 2015). Human rights, Code of conduct and ethical consideration continue to influence psychiatric evaluation in interrogations.

The treatment of prisoners and other subjects of interrogation were brutal and often in violation of the international code of ethics and human rights. The 2005 Council that looked into the role of psychiatrists in enhanced interrogations came up with the PENS report (Chin, 2015). In this report, they had detailed the cruel nature of National Security interrogation. The torture and inhuman treatment of person were however approved by the APA, citing it as a necessary resource in the fight against terrorism (Chin, 2015). The decade that followed saw a lot of the people in the country including core personalities in psychiatric circles question the decision that was arrived at by the PENS report and APA. They, therefore, advocated for a revision of PENS report.

The APA associations then took steps to carry out an independent analysis of the PENS report and determined the possible changes that they could make as stated by their ethical code of conduct. The Hoffman Report was the primary cause that prompted the revision of the policies and regulations that were applied in interrogations (Chin, 2015). Some of the findings of the Hoffman Repot included, the biases to Muslim captives and the insistence of the National Security Interrogations on their potential threat. Counterintelligence was also found to be a primary influence on the continued association of the APA and the Department Of Defense (DoD) (Chin, 2015). Thirdly, the primary influence for the use of enhanced interrogation methods was that they attitudes and feelings of the public and administration after 9/11.

Understanding the Mental Health treatment is an important consideration when looking into the role of psychologists in National Security Interrogations. Mental health is an important medical practice. It is important to ensure that the therapies or methods that are used in interrogations are not harmful to individuals (Fisher, & Yuko, 2015). Medics in mental health have several codes of ethics that govern their practice. These include the competence of a professional in their capacity as psychiatrists, informed consent from patients, respect for privacy and confidentiality and the creation of personal relationships with the clients (Fisher, & Yuko, 2015).

The APA had violated the professional code of ethics and their organizational code of ethics in their participation in enhanced interrogation. Their involvement undermined their code that stated; do not harm, avoid conflicts of interest and avoid dual roles (Chin, 2015). Their involvement in national security interrogations placed the leaders of APA in a compromising situation. Their claim that psychologists were only present in the interrogation to confirm that the interrogations and approaches to interrogation were safe, legal, ethical and effective. They, however, stated that they did not actively take part in these interrogations.

In the Hoffman report, they found that the APA had curry favor with the DoD and had, in fact, violated their code of conducts. The interrogations were inhumane. In fact, the techniques employed had been classified as torture by the United Nations. They had in this respect caused a lot of harm to the prisoners at different military camps (Chin, 2015). The APA had also violated their code of no participation in dual roles when they allowed psychiatrists to monitor the interrogations to ensure that they were both safe and effective (Chin, 2015). Their entire approach to interrogations, therefore, placed physicians in compromising situations. In this respect, they had created and managed a conflict of interest for their practicing physicians and the public.

Media coverage and the professional initiative have since seen the deter of physicians and APA from their participation in the National Security interrogations. They US government was requested to revise its understanding of torture and strive to keep up with the recent definition of torture and the human right considerations (Chin, 2015). The report also recommended that physicians be trained effectively to work towards safeguarding human rights should their services be called upon by the military (Chin, 2015). Their primary intention in the cases should be to protect human rights as detailed by the United Nations in their capacity as physicians.



Chin J. L. (2015). Torture and Social Psychology. Retrieved from

Fisher, C., & Yuko, E. (2015). Mental Health Therapies. Encyclopedia Of Global Bioethics, 1-12.

Kalbeitzer, R. (2009). Psychologists and Interrogations: Ethical Dilemmas in Times of War. Ethics & Behavior, 19(2), 156-168.

Ward, J. (2016). What is forensic psychology? Retrieved 3 December 2016, from





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