Ethical complaints and disciplinary action against South African psychologists

Scherrer R. ; Louw D.A. ; Moller A.T. (2002)


This study investigated the scope and nature of complaints, related to unethical behaviour, that have be en lodged against South African psychologists with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) between 1990 and 1999. Certain biographical characteristics of the complainants and their accused also received attention. During this period, complaints were lodged annually against approximately 1% of South African psychologists, of which approximately 15% resulted in disciplinary inquiries. Only 5% of the total number of complaints and 34% of the disciplinary inquiries led to convictions. However, almost 50% of the disciplinary inquiries had not yet be en concluded at the time of this investigation. Most complaints (21.3%) involved neglect to renew annual registration. As far as the rendering of services to the public is concerned, most complaints were related to accounts (16%). Other complaints included, among others, problems with psychologists' reports (13.1%), incompetence (12.9%) and improper behaviour (11.5%). It appears that complainants were family members (34%) rather than the clients/patients themselves (26%). The two penalties imposed most often were either a warning or a suspension in the form of a suspended sentence. Recommendations for reducing complaints of unethical behaviour are made.

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