First a bit about forensic psychology. The term forensic comes from another term that means “in the forum” and the forum is in some type of legal setting. Forensic ethics applies to the application of ethical principles to the work psychologists do in the Courts. Everyone stuggles with ethics just like everyone struggles with the right thing to do in complex situations. There are major codes of ethics applicable to forensic psychology but they don’t cover every circumstance. Plus in legal settings attorneys have a distinctly different role in a case from the psychologist. The lawyer is an advocate for the client. The psychologist’s job is to bring the scientific study of human behavior to the legal issue at hand. It is very easy to be caught up in the battle between the advocates. However, it is wrong to do so and the psyc. must maintain objectivity and focus on the data. Nowhere else is this a problem than in child custody disputes. These disputes and the legal system set up to deal with them often brings out the worst in parents. I have seen perfectly rational, logical and healthy people become irrational, illogical and unhealthy in dealing with child custody. It is quite tragic for everyone except that the environment is a breeding ground for ethical viruses. I have observed psychologists and other mental health professionals act unethical and contrary to the normal way in which they behave. The explanation is deeper than the money they make. The system itself is unhealthy in my opinion. Many professions have specific ethical principles that apply to child custody disputes. While very important they don’t stop unethical conduct. In one case I found a psychologist who was very threatened by the expertise and seniority of another psychologist and reacted to this in a bizarre and juvenile manner desperately trying to protect the turf that this psyc. had carved out for years in a small community. There are many disturbing aspects of this especially that misconduct in NOT in the best interests of the child!
Today June 9th 2009 I returned from being overseas to find my dog Thunder dying. The exilleration of getting a puppy is nothing in the way of feelings to those in losing that pet almost 12 years later. He seemed to hang on waiting for to arrive home to say goodbye. Thunder was a Tatra and these dogs are incredible. They are gentle giants also known as Polish Mountian Sheepdogs. He was a trusted friend. We ran together, went for walks and after I was injured his loyalty was unwavering. He patroled our yard which has parts of it much like the terrain of his homeland. I did step in and end his suffering. It has been an extremely painful and agonizing and there are no words that make a real difference. I am having him cremated and will use them to grow a tree. Thunder was a dog who communicated with his eyes and his body. Tatras are a breed that herds by using their bodies to push the sheep to the proper place. He often met me by pushing me gently and when I stopped petting him he would tell me it wasn’t enough by using his head and body to ask for more. They are amazing animals. When they guard sheep in the mountains they work as a group and lie down while the sheep are standing. But when a wolf comes to attack the sheep they rise and go to work. I have never had or met a more loving animal than Thunder. The sadness is overwhelming. I shall always remember Thunder who had an impact on everyone he met. Tonight I sit here in mourning, sad, filled with emotional pain and wishing he was still here. Enjoy the precious moments with your animals as time passes all too fast. Tonight I remain overwhelmed with the loss of a friend and family member.
Friendship is a rather interesting phenomena. Who are friends are and what we do to maintain our friendship often reflects significantly on us as individuals. This is a story; one that is true. I grew up in a suburb of Chicago and actually lived in the City for a while. I met my first friend when I was about 6 months old. My next friend I met when I was 3 years old. I grew up in the same neighborhood with a group of friends, some of whom are friends to this day. However, over the years I left the Chicago area and moved around. A small group decided to share a vacation time in Lake Tahoe every other year. My friend Bob who I have known since we were 6 months old was one of them along with his wife. Another was a neighbor Bill who had been a friend since we were both young children. He and his wife Billy came to Tahoe for a week of fun. Another friend was Joe Jonas and his wife who I played in a band with in college. I drank alcohol in college and did my share of going to parties. As I got older and eventually became a professional I went to not drinking at all. Also, there was some drug use in the group that always made me terribly uncomfortable. I don’t use drugs. GIven my injuries and chronic medical problems matters came to a head about 6 years ago. We gathered for the usual Tahoe vacation and rented a place to spend time together. While there the group was doing an enormous amount of alcohol that, professionally, I ascertained could not possibly be consumed but for severe tolerance built in the neurochemistry of the brain. To my chagrin they were also smoking a great amount of marijuana outside on a deck that was elevated. I registered my complaint multiple times and noted I had more than one license to lose and begged they stop. Did they? Of course not. When one is so self absorbed that the needs of friends cannot be perceived the proverbial door is shut. Then things escalated. My friend Don asked me to provide him with some of the narcotics I use for pain management that are prescribed. I said NO! So he stole some pills. I discovered it and demanded he return them. He didn’t. So with drinking night and day, use of drugs night and day I was separate from the group. After they left I wrote a series of emails expressing my concern. I told Bill and others that he was an alcoholic and drug addict. He was in denial even though three weeks after he arrived home he got a DUI. There was a flurry of emails that went back and forth. I called it as I saw it and that was probably rough to take. The outcome was that lifelong friends split and no longer spoke to each other. Recently, in 2009 I reached out with emails and calls. No response. It appears the cross talk actually had an effect on everyone’s memories. Friendship is tough. Sometimes it is like a marriage. It is very important but there are times when friendships must end due to the failure of people to have insight and sensitivity toward their fellow man. (Names have been changed to affect the guilty)
One person asked a question regarding why forensic psychologists participate in police abuses and that included conducting evaluations in prisons and jail. The question presupposes a premise that forensic psychs actually do participate in police abuses. As a group they do not. There may be a police psychologist somewhere who abuses his/her power but I have never seen it. In fact in California, inmates can refuse to see a psych. They are given informed consent and they usually raise the issue. In my region the psychologists carefully monitor the mental health of inmates and are vigilant of inmates and potential suicide attempts. It is very honorable profession with strict rules.
I just arrived home from a business trip to Chicago. My dog Thunder is a Tatra, Polish Mountain Sheepdog. He is loyal friend and we have been through a lot together. The typical age of dogs from his breed pass away is 11-12 years. Thunder is 11 1/2 years and he is having trouble. I was convinced to have him undergo surgery on his leg to attempt to repair torn ligaments by a vet at the Loomis Basin Vet Clinic. The surgery failed and he has been failing since then. He is dying. There are times when he cries and while being a guardian of my yard in the past he has not left the house since his surgery. He shows signs of anxiety and pain. I am medicating him with pain and anti-anxiety meds. I contemplate when to let him go. It is a profound general topic for humans. When do we let go of a partner in marriage? When do we let go of a friend? When do we let go of a dream? At this point I can ask questions but lack answers. I do know with many choices, there is no ability to undo putting down a great friend like Thunder who has provided unconditional love and simply wanted time. I feel the pain in some ways knowing that he suffers. Despite his pain and anxiety he is still loving and seems to enjoy nothing other than time with me and other family members. There is no instruction manual for letting go of a family pet or a relationship along with other such decisions. There does seem to be a slow process like following a pathway with various turning points, some that lead to points of information, others that are dead ends. Right now I enjoy the silent moments I am about to have with my decade long friend. I leave this with the lingering question of what signs are present when it is time?
This Blog is in connection to the website at www.lawpsychologyethics.com I will use this method of communication to inform readers of any relevant news in psychological science, law, neuroscience, forensic psychology and forensic ethics. Please check out my website. It is a project in continuous development. For starters although I am fairly conservative it is clear that we as citizens have made a choice, probably passively, to treat the seriously mentally ill in jail and prison settings rather than in treatment centers. In a time when there have been incredible advances in psychological and psychiatric treatment for the seriously mentally ill funding levels for community mental health center are generally at the place they were in 1982! One Sheriff in Los Angeles has concluded he ran the largest mental health facility in the country; The Los Angeles County Jail!