Two’s Company, Three’s A Crowd: The Problem of Third Party Presence in Forensic Psychiatric Examinations.

Years ago, the distinguished and esteemed George Washington University forensic psychiatrist Robert I Simon MD, who sadly died earlier this year, wrote a wonderful monograph entitled “Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd,” outlining the scientific and ethical problems posed by the presence of a third party during a forensic psychiatric examination.

In 2003, a California Appellate Court Opinion, Golfland v Superior Court, set precedent in California that no attorney or third party can insist upon being present during a forensic neuropsychological examination. In practice, this applies, by extension, to forensic psychiatric examinations. As an alternative to the potentially disruptive and distorting influences of the presence of a third party during a forensic neuropsychological examination, the Court authorized the use of audio recording. The Court has remained silent, however, on the use of video recording of forensic psychiatric examinations. Electronic recording of psychological testing raises other proprietary and ethical problems for forensic psychologists.

In an effort address the issue of video recording forensic psychiatric examinations in a world of rapidly changing technology, the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law has written a Practice Guideline entitled “Video Recording of Forensic Psychiatric Evaluations”, revised in May 2013, that reviews the many, nuanced scientific issues that relate to electronic recording of forensic psychiatric examinations.