Sunday, July 12, 2009

Lawyer Confidentiality Waived if Client Suicidal

"The commentary to the Alberta rules include the following comment:

"A lawyer should, if possible, discuss with the client whether the lawyer may disclose an apparent intent to commit suicide and, if so, to whom....The circumstances supporting an implicit authorization to disclose an intended suicide will be exceptional. ..

The lawyer's personal experience, beliefs or moral views on suicide are clearly subordinate to the lawyer's ethical obligations to maintain the confidential information of their client."

I think the client suicide presents a difficult case. Life may be a paramount value, but so is client autonomy and determination of the ends of representation. Absent incompetence, I find it hard to justify disclosure. On the other hand, I have an inuitive sense that to stand by and watch the end of a human life would be more or less unbearable."

Add this to the discovery list. Did the suicider tell a lawyer about his plan? Make the lawyer a co-defendant.

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