I am always astounded how many professionals make public comments about their clients. I cannot really understand why society allows lawyers to publish their memoirs. I read John Marsden’s memoirs, and was not impressed by his comments about Ivan Milat. If I remember correctly, they suggested, or rekindled the suggestion in the public mind, that Mr Milat got away with rapes long before he started knocking backpackers off, that it was Marsden’s brilliance which had achieved that, and that Marsden, cancer-stricken, wanted to tell the world that he rather regretted it now. Marsden also named, to the media, a woman whom he said was Mr Milat’s accomplice in the murders. Criminal lawyers have to live with secrets which bear down heavily on them. Perhaps it is not surprising that Marsden made the disclosure. But where was the reportage that this was a serious transgression? I am not speaking of condemnation, but rather an acknowledgment that this is not as it should be. All this assumes, of course, one thing which I do not know, namely that Mr Marsden did not have Mr Milat’s permission to make these statements.
Here’s an article about Britney Spears’s doctor, Dr Phil McGraw. Ms Spears has sold 83 million records but was admitted to hospital strapped to a stretcher recently. The police told the media she was intoxicated by something. People are very suspicious about her because she cut her hair short. Dr McGraw visited in hospital. Then he told the press that Ms Spears was in ‘dire need of both medical and psychological intervention’, and that he was ‘very concerned for her’. She is involved in matrimonial disputation over her kids. Witnesses are lining up to criticise her parenting skills. People are not at their best in such situations. As family lawyers know, they are, in fact, at their worst.
Mind you The Age‘s article fails to point out that this was not exactly a normal doctor-patient relationship. ‘Dr Phil’ is a talk show host who tries to help people through psychological problems. On tv. Early reports suggested Ms Spears was due to appear on the show, but her parents have since suggested that there was no such arrangement. Nor does it point out that Dr McGraw is not in fact a doctor of medicine, but a doctor of philosophy. ‘Psychologist / psychiatrist, what’s the diff?’ you might say, but according to Wikipedia, he’s not licensed as a psychologist any more either, not having taken the ethics class after he had an inappropriate relationship with a patient and was sanctioned (his website does not suggest he is a psychologist). So it’s unclear whether there was a doctor-client relationship. Even if not, it does not mean there was no implied duty of confidentiality.
Not happy Jan! I’m with the Spearses.