Laws and Ethics in Psychology


There are many laws that control how psychology is used in our country. Most of these laws cover a variety of ethical problems that those in the field of psychology often face. There are certain codes and rules a psychologist must follow to protect patients as well as the public. These ethical principles not only help guide mental health professionals, but they also protect both health professionals and patients facing a wide variety of problems and difficulties. Professionals in the mental healthcare field may see many problems day to day in their careers, so many of these laws help guide them in making tough decisions.

Informed consent is an example of a law in the ethics of mental health care and psychological research. This particular law has been created in order to help protect patients and their family members. This law also serves as a guideline to researchers and mental healthcare professionals on how to properly treat and inform patients. Following laws such as informed consent laws help professionals protect themselves against medical malpractice suits as well as giving them guidelines to follow in the case that the medical professional is unsure how to handle a particular situation with a patient.

To a researcher, the laws surrounding informed consent may seem harsh, they are made to protect those who are naive to any consequences of any treatments and studies. Luckily, there are many loopholes in these laws and these loopholes are kind of built in to protect patients, their families, mental healthcare professionals, and psychological researchers.

Take this into consideration: a woman that has been involved in a terrible car accident. In order to survive, the woman requires major surgery. However, the woman is unconscious and unable to legally consent to the surgery. Should the doctor break the law and perform the surgery to save her life or should he do nothing and let the woman die (and have the situation on his mind for perhaps the rest of his life?) According to informed consent laws, the woman must be able to consent to treatment, but there is a loophole for this. In order to save the woman’s life there is a loophole known as the Hippocratic Oath. This particular loophole has been created in order to save a person’s life in situations such as this. Under the Hippocratic Oath, a promise that doctors make to ethically treat patients, a doctor will give the woman the treatment she needs to save her life.