Tarasoff v. Regents: Psychological Case

Professional ethics in psychology insists that a doctor or psychologist is limited to sharing information with a third party shared by the client or patient. Nonetheless, reforms in the medical sector through court rulings have enabled mental health practitioners to share life-threatening information with third-party individuals. The famous case of Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California, which was ruled out in the Supreme Court of California established the grounds of information sharing by a psychotherapist to third parties especially when the information in question threatens the life of the third party individual (Good Therapy, 2015). The case involved a man and a woman, Prosenjit Poddar and Tatiana Tarasoff respectively, whereby the man who was a student of California University was charged with killing Tarasoff under consent. The accused had shared the information with his psychologist, Lawrence Moore, who was obliged to keep the utmost secrecy of the client. Doctor Moore reported Poddar to the university police and after detaining him for a few weeks. Poddar promised to keep away from Tarasoff. Nonetheless, on October 27th, 1969, Poddar made a move a killed Tarasoff using a pellet gun and a knife (Good Therapy, 2015). The case proceeded with Tarasoff’s parents suing Doctor Moore and the University of California claiming that both institutions had the mandate to inform Tarasoff of the impending danger of death threats (Good Therapy, 2015). The Supreme Court of California ruled out that Doctor Moore was only liable for his client. Nonetheless, the court released the charges under the ruling that all mental health professionals have the mandate to warn and inform third parties of impending danger that might be caused by the patient. The case became of importance in the field of psychology ethics as mental health practitioners have the power to prevent impending dangers such as death and assault on a third party individual.

The ruling caused an immediate dilemma in the mental health field since psychologists do not have clear clarification on the levels of dangerous information required to be disclosed to the affected third-party individual. As per HIPAA rules, emotional well-being suppliers, like other medical services experts, are dependent upon obligation for penetrating supplier patient classification (Good Therapy, 2015). Nonetheless, mental health practitioners need to evaluate whether the information gathered from a patient is life-threatening before disclosing it to a third party. However, if the information breach is not life-threatening, the mental health doctor is liable to the patient and is punishable by the law.

The main impact of the Tarasoff case led the mental health therapists to pick up a new role of protecting not only the patient but also third party individuals that might arise through therapy. Therapists must inform patients of the limits of confidentiality before beginning therapy sessions which ensures that the patient understands that life-threatening information can be provided to legal faculties. Another impact of the Tarasoff case is that therapists have the mandate to protect third-party individuals that might be in danger due to the unstable condition of the patient. However, the therapists should not make clear remarks on the motive of the patient rather they should inform the third party of possible danger and harm in circumstances that the patient makes threats against the person.

In conclusion, the Tarasoff case evokes the feeling of fairness and justice despite the ethics revolving around the mental health field. I strongly support that therapists must protect the information of the patient in life-threatening situations, the practitioner should breach the information to the third party by providing a warning of impending danger that the patient might try to commit dangerous activities. However, I recommend that therapists should ensure proper considerations before breaching the patient’s information and should only reveal sensitive information during life-threatening cases.


Good Therapy. (2015). Tarasoff v. Regents – GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog. GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog. ‌

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PsychologyWriting. 2023. "Tarasoff v. Regents: Psychological Case." April 3, 2023. https://psychologywriting.com/tarasoff-v-regents-psychological-case/.

1. PsychologyWriting. "Tarasoff v. Regents: Psychological Case." April 3, 2023. https://psychologywriting.com/tarasoff-v-regents-psychological-case/.


PsychologyWriting. "Tarasoff v. Regents: Psychological Case." April 3, 2023. https://psychologywriting.com/tarasoff-v-regents-psychological-case/.