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Denmark: Psychologist Held in Contempt of Court in Torture Case

(Oct. 11, 2011) On October 6, 2011, a retired military psychologist refused to break client confidentiality in a case in Copenhagen’s Eastern High Court and was charged with contempt of court. The court will determine whether she will be fined or sentenced to time in prison. The case involved allegations of torture of prisoners of war in Afghanistan. The psychologist, Merete Lindholm, asserted the inviolability of patient confidentiality, stating, “[i]f soldiers aren’t allowed to talk with their psychologist about the awful things they either witnessed or were involved in, then they won’t have a chance to get back on their feet.” (Psychologist Held in Contempt for Refusing to Speak, THE COPENHAGEN POST (Oct. 6, 2011).)

Lindholm also asserted that there was no testimony she could give that would be of use in the torture case. She had been asked about the statements of a translator in the Danish military, who had served in Afghanistan in 2002 and who, it was believed, had discussed with her during his therapy sessions an incident of Danish military personnel torturing war prisoners. (Jennifer Buley, Courts and Psychologists in Fight over Client Confidentiality, THE COPENHAGEN POST (Oct. 3, 2011).)

The Danish Psychological Association, which initially backed Lindholm’s right to maintain confidentiality, in the end recommended that she testify. The Association’s President, Roal Ulrichsen, stated that they could “no longer recommend that she remain silent.” (Psychologist Held in Contempt for Refusing to Speak, supra.) He added that there was a deficiency in Danish laws concerning psychologists and client confidentiality and that the Association will work to have psychologists placed on the same footing as doctors, lawyers, and members of the clergy. (Id.)

Lindholm stated she would break confidentiality “if I could prevent future crimes.” (Id.) The case in question she considered to already be history, adding that “it’s up to others to unravel what happened.” (Id.)