Confidentiality in Counseling Individuals with HIV/AIDS -- By: Jay A. Quine
BSac 153:612 (Oct 96) p. 468
Confidentiality in Counseling Individuals with HIV/AIDS
[Jay A. Quine is Senior Pastor, Calvary Bible Church, Readington, New Jersey, and former municipal court judge and deputy prosecutor, Whitman County, Washington.]
The Need for Confidentiality
Tradition has long regarded the confidence between pastors and counselees as sacred. Church members frequently disclose intimate and delicate secrets to their pastors. Only in severe and exceptional situations should pastors be persuaded that this special relationship should be violated. A pastor who does not hold in confidence those things revealed to him may be regarded as unethical and ungodly. In most states and in most situations the courts have recognized the importance of clergy keeping inviolate the intimacies revealed to them in confidence.1 Thus a pastor may find himself facing a lawsuit if he violates this expectation of confidentiality.
However, maintaining confidentiality in certain situations may also lead to a lawsuit. In particular, most states have passed statutes that require clergy to reveal child abuse, spousal abuse, sexual abuse, and criminal activity. Also many cases have established a duty to reveal threats made by counselees to third parties who may be harmed if no disclosure is made. Some pastors may therefore find themselves liable to third parties who are harmed on account of the pastors’ failure to disclose things revealed in confidence.
Pastors and counselors may find themselves between the proverbial rock and a hard place. On one hand a counselor may
BSac 153:612 (Oct 96) p. 469
be liable for revealing confidential matters to third parties, and on the other hand a counselor may be liable for failure to reveal matters given in confidence but which result in harm to third parties. While such a dilemma may arise from many counseling situations, its significance has escalated recently with the rise of counseling cases involving HIV and AIDS. This article seeks to analyze and gain perspective on this legal squeeze in which pastors and counselors now find themselves.2
Purpose for Maintaining Pastoral Confidentiality
On one side of the dilemma is the value of maintaining confidentiality. Noting its importance, the American Association of Pastoral Counselors Code of Ethics expresses its purpose this way: “As members of AAPC we respect the integrity and protect the welfare of all persons with whom we are working and have an obligation to safeguard information about them that has been obtained in the course of the counseling process.”You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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