Ethical Considerations


Certain basic ethical requirements are paramount. These are: voluntary participation and right of withdrawal at any time in assessment procedures; anonymity and confidentiality; duty of care when psychological distress may result from the procedures; feedback of results; the right to view data, the storage of which has to comply with the requirements of the Data Protection Act; and the duty of disclosure of 'psychiatric' disturbances or propensities that could be dangerous to or abusive of others.

In respect of ISA assessments a further particular ethical concern is that of keeping issues in perspective, that is, of maintaining the relative importance of the substantive issue of investigation to the overall identity characteristics of the individual, so as not to distort the significance of the investigative focus in relation to the totality of the person's identity processes. In response to a professional expert witness called upon to assess psychological harm following disfiguring accidents, the following observations were made:

"I well understand that the Court is not interested in the person's identity processes in general that are not associated with the accident. However, my point was that a person's identity processes prior to the accident may well have a bearing on how the experience of the accident and its consequences was processed by the client. Additionally, the empirical estimates of the ISA parameters automatically become suspect if the identity instrument is overwhelmed by content that relates only to the one identity issue (the accident). In other words, the credibility of the ISA results becomes undermined. Now, I do think that these are serious ethical issues."

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