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Abstract

This article discusses the much-misunderstood Tarasoff decision that requires psychotherapists to protect third parties from patients' violent acts. Through a normative approach, the paper analyzes four important issues: what to do when potential victims are unknown; what to do about the fact that the patients' potential for violence may be incorrectly perceived; the value of warning potential victims; and, the problem of discharging potentially violent patients from the hospital. The author proposes that the courts adopt a more flexible substantial departure test in most cases that involve psychiatric negligence.