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Free Content Reification of Psychiatric Diagnoses as Defamatory: Implications for Ethical Clinical Practice

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While the mental health professional generally has beneficent motives and an honest belief in the DSM diagnoses assigned to clients, such diagnoses may yet be defamatory when communicated to third parties. Mental health diagnoses invariably lower the individual's reputation in the eyes of the community. At the same time, DSM diagnoses are but one out of a myriad of possible interpretive frameworks. DSM descriptors for the client's distress thus cannot be said to capture the essence of the client's personhood. When a diagnosis is published as if it captured a definitive truth about an individual psychiatric client, it is, in that important regard, inaccurate. That is, such a communication meets the criterion for a reckless disregard for the truth or an honest belief but without reasonable basis insofar as it is considered to be anything more than a working hypothesis. Hence, in certain cases, DSM labeling may constitute defamation.
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Keywords: DSM diagnostic categories; clinical practice; defamation; ethics; mental disorder

Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: Lakehead, University Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

Publication date: January 1, 2005

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