University of California Los Angeles

A well-known pop star, Britney Spears (Links to an external site.), was admitted to Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for psychiatric evaluation as part of a child custody dispute with ex-husband Kevin Federline, who temporarily had sole legal and physical custody (Links to an external site.) of the couple’s children. Dr. Phil McGraw, a well-known talk show host and friend of the family, visited Spears in the hospital on January 7th without Spears’ consent. Dr. Phil subsequently released a statement were he said the following:

“meeting with Britney and some of her family members this morning in her room at Cedars leaves me convinced more than ever that she is in dire need of both medical and psychological intervention. She was released moments before my arrival and was packing when I entered the room. We visited for about an hour before I walked with her to her car. I am very concerned for her.” (Harris 2008)

After releasing this statement, a spokesperson for Britney Spears said that he “betrayed her trust” by speaking to the press. Subsequently, his credential as a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of California was questioned. Results of the inquiry found that Dr. Phil was not licensed to practice psychology in the state. He does have a doctorate in clinical psychology and had been licensed in the state of Texas until 2006 when he gave up his license to practice, although he formally stopped practicing clinical psychology in 1990 when he formed a business and subsequently began his television show. Consider the potential ethical issues in this situation.

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Utilizing your decision matrix, answer the following questions supporting your reasoning:

  1. Did Dr. Phil have the right to visit Ms. Spears?
  2. Did he have the right to make the statement he did about her condition?
  3. What ethical issues does this situation pose?
  4. What are some of the issues that surface with this case as related to public figures or celebrities as well as patients with behavioral healthcare issues?
 
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