Sunday, March 28, 2010

Tarasoff Duty to Warn Increases Homicide Rate by 9%, after Enactment

Tarasoff warnings thus represent medical malpractice, violating the duty to do no harm. If any plaintiff expert asserts the Tarasoff decision, I would appreciate getting the name.

Doing Their Duty: An Empirical Analysis of the Unintended Effect of Tarasoff v Regents on Homicidal Activity

Griffin Sims Edwards
Emory University, Department of Economics

January 29, 2010

Emory Law and Economics Research Paper No. 10-61

The effect of state duty to warn laws inspired by Tarasoff v Regents has been debated for decades. Required reporting of patient threats to the authorities and potential victims gives incentive to the mental health professional to not meet with the most at risk patients, or at very least make the current state of the law abundantly clear to the patient as to suggest suppression of the most at risk statements leaving the psychologist in liability-free ignorance to the true mental state of the patient. As a result, the mental help needed to treat the patient may be foregone and violence may ensue. Exploiting the variation in the timing and style of duty to warn laws across states, I use a fixed effects model to find that, all else equal and controlling for the prevalence of crack, mandatory duty to warn laws cause an increase in homicides of 9.5% or 0.83 people per 100,000. These results are robust to model specifications, falsification tests, and help to clarify the true, albeit unintended, affect of state duty to warn laws.

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