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Suit Over Therapists Mandatory Child Porn Reporting Renewed

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Sonora, CA –The California Supreme Court has reinstated a lawsuit over whether psychotherapists must tell authorities when patients report that they are attracted to child pornography.

The split (4-3) high court ruling remands the suit back to a lower court where state and county legal officials to show whether the mandatory reporting protects children. The court’s action has revived a long-running debate surrounding a lawsuit by therapists who say California’s mandatory reporting law enacted in 2014 violates patient confidentiality. The suit argues that allowing patients to admit their problems “is an essential prerequisite for patients to seek and succeed in treatment.” The therapists add that it discourages patients from admitting that they view child pornography.

While acknowledging that the proliferation of child pornography on the internet “is an urgent problem of national and international dimension,” the justices argue the blame falls with people who produce it and those who “perpetuate the victimization with every viewing.”

The therapists had argued that the patients in the case present no a serious risk of sexual contact with children, a point the majority justices noted. They also concluded that patient privacy rights only apply to disclosures during voluntary psychotherapy sessions and not to actually possessing or viewing child porn, which is illegal and reportable. The dissenting justice said the therapists were unlikely to win the lawsuit.

Six other states have laws requiring mandatory reporting of psychotherapy patients who knowingly possess or view child pornography. Another 10 states allow exceptions to psychotherapist-patient privacy for child abuse or neglect.

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