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On-line version ISSN 2304-8557
Print version ISSN 0023-270X

Koers (Online) vol.75 n.4 Pretoria  2010


Ethical decision-making in forensic psychology1


Etiese besluitneming in forensiese sielkunde



M. Swanepoel

Department of Jurisprudence, Unisa, PRETORIA. E-mail:




The purpose of this article is to develop a comprehensive process for identifying and addressing primarily ethical issues related to the psychology profession in South Africa. In fulfilling this purpose, research was conducted of relevant ethical and to a lesser extent, legal aspects pertaining to the psychology profession. In an attempt to prevent unprofessional conduct claims against psychologists from succeeding and to alert psychologists to the concurrent ethical problems that may lead to malpractice suits, this article offers material on some important issues - in the context of forensic psychology - such as ethical decision-making and principles, professional ethics, the regulation of psychology as a profession, the Ethical Code of Professional Conduct to which a psychologist should adhere, ethical aspects and issues pertaining to forensic psychology in general, some ethical issues pertaining to child forensic psychology, summary guidelines for ethical decision-making and some steps to follow to ensure sound ethical decision-making.

Key concepts: confidentiality, culture, ethical decision-making, forensic psychology, informed consent, neuropsychology, privacy, professional ethics


Die doel van hierdie artikel is om 'n proses te ontwikkel waardeur etiese kwessies met betrekking tot die sielkundeprofessie in Suid-Afrika geïdentifiseer en hanteer kan word. Om hierdie doel te bereik, is navorsing gedoen oor die relevante etiese kwessies en, tot 'n mindere mate, die regskwessies met betrekking tot die sielkundeprofessie. In 'n poging om te verhoed dat onprofessionele gedragseise teen sielkundiges slaag en om sielkundiges te waarsku oor etiese probleme wat mag lei tot eise teen hulle, bied hierdie artikel inligting oor belangrike kwessies in die konteks van forensiese sielkunde, naamlik etiese besluitneming en beginsels, professionele etiek, die regulering van die sielkundeprofessie, die Etiese Kode waaraan sielkundiges moet voldoen, aspekte en kwessies met betrekking tot forensiese sielkunde in die algemeen, sommige etiese kwessies met betrekking tot kindersielkunde, opsommende riglyne vir etiese besluitneming en stappe om te volg om etiese besluitneming te verseker.

Kernbegrippe: etiese besluitneming, forensiese sielkunde, ingeligte toestemming, konfidensialiteit, kultuur, neurosielkunde, privaatheid, professionele etiek



Full text available only in pdf format.



List of references

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BUSH, S.S. 2007. Ethical decision making in clinical neuropsychology. New York: Oxford University Press.         [ Links ]

BUSH, S.S., CONNELL, M.A. & DENNEY, R.L. 2006. Ethical practice in forensic psychology: a systematic model for decision making. New York: Oxford University Press.         [ Links ]

CANTER, MB. 1996. Ethics for psychologists: a commentary on the APA ethics code. Washington: American Psychological Association.         [ Links ]

HAAS, L. 1993. Competence and quality in the performance of forensic psychologists. Ethics & behavior, 3(3 & 4):251-266.         [ Links ]

HARRiS, J. 2007. Citizens Commission On Human Rights. Date of access: 21 Aug. 2008.         [ Links ]

KALISKI, S. 2006. Introduction. (In Kaliski, S., ed. Psycholegal assessment in South Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 1-7.         [ Links ])

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SHAPIRO, D.L. 1991. Forensic psychological assessment: an integrative approach. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.         [ Links ]

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Court cases

Tarasoff v Regents of the University of California 13 Cal 3d (1974) 177, 529, 553        [ Links ]

Tarasoff v Regents of the University of California 17 Cal 3d (1976) 425, 431, 435, 551        [ Links ]

Van Wyk v Lewis 1924 AD 438 447-448        [ Links ]

Whitehouse v Jordan [1980] l All ER 650 at 655 par f-g        [ Links ]

Whitehouse v Jordan and Another [1981] 1 All ER 267 (HL) at 276 par b        [ Links ]



1 This article is an abstract of and adaptation of research conducted for the LL.D. thesis, entitled, Aspects of law, psychiatry and psychology: an analysis of constitutional, medico-legal and liability issues, for which the author is currently registered at the University of South Africa under the supervision of Prof. M.N. Slabbert. It was further presented as a paper at the Fourteenth South African Psychology Congress (26-29 August 2008), held at Emperors Palace, Johannesburg. Special recognition is given to Prof. Slabbert (Unisa) and Dr. Louise Olivier (clinical and counselling psychologist) for being great teachers and for their advice, inspiration and support, not in only in the writing of this article, but also in the writing of the thesis.

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