A Tarasoff for Europe?: A European Human Rights Perspective on the Duty to Protect

Author: Gavaghan, Colin

Date: 2007

Publisher: Elsevier

Link to this item using this URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/9071

University of Otago


It has long been recognised by British courts that a psychiatrist can be permitted to depart from his/her duty of confidentiality, in order to issue a warning where a patient is deemed to present a real and serious threat to other parties. Until recently, however, it seemed that s/he would not be bound to give such a warning, or to take other steps to protect third parties. The approach adopted throughout much of the USA, and famously expounded in the Tarasoff judgment, appeared to have no relevance to British law. This article considers the possibility that the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling in Osman v UK may be set to bring about a radical change in this respect, introducing something akin to the Tarasoff approach into the UK, and indeed throughout Europe. As well as the possible legal basis for such a duty, and the circumstances in which it would arise, it will consider how a psychiatrist might reconcile any such duty with other, more established, legal and ethical duties.

Subjects: Human Rights Law, International Law, Public Law, Britain, Europe, Common Law, European Court of Human Rights, Osman v UK

Citation: ["“A Tarasoff for Europe? A European Human Rights Perspective on the Duty to protect” (2007) 30 International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 255-267."]