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Doing Their Duty: An Empirical Analysis of the Unintended Effect of Tarasoff v Regents on Homicidal Activity

Posted: 1 Feb 2010 Last revised: 3 Oct 2014

Griffin Sims Edwards

University of Alabama at Birmingham - Department of Marketing, Industrial Distribution & Economics

Date Written: May 2014

Abstract

The seminal ruling of Tarasoff v. Regents enacted a duty that required mental health providers to warn potential victims of any real threat to life made by a patient. Many have theorized that this required breach of confidentiality may have adverse effects on effective psychological treatment - but the question remains unanswered empirically. Due to the presence of duty to warn laws, patients might forego mental health treatment that leads them to violence. Using a fixed effects model and exploiting the variation in the timing and style of duty to warn laws across states, I find that mandatory duty to warn laws cause an increase in homicides of 5%. These results are robust to model specifications, falsification tests, and help to clarify the true effect of state duty to warn laws.

Keywords: Duty to warn, mental health, homicide

JEL Classification: K13, K32

Suggested Citation

Edwards, Griffin Sims, Doing Their Duty: An Empirical Analysis of the Unintended Effect of Tarasoff v Regents on Homicidal Activity (May 2014). Journal of Law and Economics, Vol. 57, 2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1544574 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1544574

Griffin Sims Edwards (Contact Author)

University of Alabama at Birmingham - Department of Marketing, Industrial Distribution & Economics ( email )

The University of Alabama at Birmingham
1720 2nd Ave South
Birmingham, AL 35294
United States

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