But experience shows that the concern for the safety of others, particularly of possible or future victims, becomes stronger than the rule of confidentiality or an attorney's loyalty to the client. The attorney should continue to encourage the client to confess his own crime for his own benefit in the long run. And the effect that non-revelation will have on the attorney and his relationship with the client is that it can erode the integrity of the relationship itself. It must be built on honesty and integrity. The attorney cannot be effective by colluding with a guilty client. He must tell the client that the truth will eventually come out (Schneider & Levinson).
Resolving an Ethical Dilemma
Philosophers performed this according to one of two general approaches (White, 1993). The first is based on the practical purpose of the act and the second is based or judged according to the nature or correctness of the action itself. The first argues that if there is no harmful consequence, it is not wrong. The second argues that some actions are simply wrong and, therefore, must be avoided. But they can be combined and addressed in three steps (White).
The first is to analyze and consequences (White, 1993). Even if applicable, the discretionary disclosure option is not an obligation. The attorney may choose to simply keep quiet and stay away from complications. It is the job of the police and the courts to seek out and punish offenders. He would not risk getting penalized or disbarred. But when considering all positive and negative consequences, both in short- and long-term, colluding may be the worse choice to make. The second step is to analyze the options from a different perspective, namely the correctness of the action of withholding itself. Will the attorney feel at par with moral principles of honesty, fairness and dignity? If there is conflict, is one of them actually more important than the other or other considerations? And the third is to make the decision from the results of the first two steps (White).
Conclusion: Response/Tackling the Dilemma
If I were the attorney, I would handle this dilemma in one, two or all of three ways. In the first, I will make sure that the confessed abduction and murder of the 5-year-old boy by the client is not the subject matter of my representation. (The case description in the assignment is not clear about this.) If it is beyond the subject matter, then the information is not confidential and I will inform the parents of the missing and murdered boy about what I gathered from the client. In the second, if I learn that the confessed information is or lies within the subject matter of my representation, I will continue to convince the client to confess his crime to the authorities. I will emphasize to him the benefit of a plea of guilt and that I will work vigorously for leniency with the judge and much-reduced sentence. And third, I will remind him that his crime will eventually be revealed no matter how we hide it. When it gets discovered in some future time or anytime soon, he may not be able to obtain lenient considerations as what we now can if he agrees. I will also remind him of the feeling of release from guilt and stress if he confesses voluntarily. I will tell him what surveys find concerning living in guilt and stress as highly contributing to a growing range of diseases, like heart disease, cancer, asthma and hypertension. I will persist in enlightening him with the thought that life can be better if he did not live with a guilt and with the apprehension of getting found out any time.
Hill and Bleiberg (2013). Managing ethical issues in your day-to-day practice.
Hill and Bleiberg Injury Lawyers: Hill and Bleiberg. Retrieved on March 19, 2013
Schneider, B. And Levinson, J.P. (2005). Ethical dilemmas related to disclosure issues sex addiction therapists in the trenches. Retrieved on March 19, 2013 from http://www.jenniferschneider.com/articles/Ethical_Dilemmas.htm
Stuart, G. (1997). The ethical duty of confidentiality. Ethics Law. Retrieved on March 19,
2013 from http://www.ethicslaw.com/dutycon.html
White, T.L. (1993). Resolving an ethical dilemma. Ethics and Business. Retrieved on March 19, 2013 from http://www.asec-sldi.org/dotAsset/292830.pdf