Letter to the editor: Misinformation in column

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Misinformation in column

I am writing to correct some important misinformation that it appeared in a column by Deborah Alecson, who writes a regular column on the subject of "Musings on Mortality." This column entitled "Difference between Suicide, Medical Aid in Dying" appeared on Labor Day, Monday, September 5, 2016. Although I normally enjoy this column, I was deeply disturbed when she stated the following: "There are consequences for a patient in therapy to even talk about suicide: the therapist must report him or her to the authorities." This is simply false and misleading information. Patients are entitled to confidentiality when discussing their thoughts and feelings, including those about suicide with a licensed psychotherapist. Confidentiality cannot and should not be violated except in certain emergency situations. A patient is free to talk about their thoughts and feelings about suicide without fear of having these thoughts and feelings revealed to anyone else without their permission. The only exception to this rule is when the suicidal thoughts or feelings rise to the level of the patient having a plan, the intent to commit suicide soon and the means to do so. There has to be a clear and immediate danger to the patient before confidentiality can be broken and emergency personnel contacted. This unfortunate misinformation could prevent someone in desperate need of help, from seeking that help for fear of forced psychiatric hospitalization or other forced interventions.

— Kirke McVay M.A. LCMHC, licensed psychologist-master, Vermont Psychological Association, Ethics Committee member Shaftsbury


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