Everyone has heard the term “attorney-client privilege;” we know we can tell our lawyers anything and it will be kept confidential. We have the same freedom with our doctors. Many laws are in place to protect our privacy when it comes to medical issues, but what about addiction?
We may confess things to our sponsors that we don’t want repeated. After all, sponsors are supposed to be a unique source of support – they’re people who intimately understand what we’re going through and they won’t look down on us for the things we say. Shouldn’t this confidentiality be protected?Lawmakers in Washington say yes.
Looking Out for Your Rights
A new Washington state law granted AA sponsors the same protection enjoyed by physicians and lawyers regarding testifying in civil court. The goal of this legislation is to encourage those struggling with addiction to get the help they need.
This law removes another barrier to those seeking treatment: Knowing what is shared with a sponsor cannot be used against them in civil court can encourage individuals to open up and get the necessary support to achieve sobriety. It also alleviates pressure on sponsors, knowing they won’t hear something in confidence that they have to repeat in court.
The Letter of the Law
The law defines a sponsor as one who is in the role of “providing guidance, emotional support, and counseling in an individualized manner to a person participating in an alcohol or drug addiction recovery fellowship.” This covers sponsors in Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and other similar programs.
According to the new law, sponsors:
“…may not testify in any civil action or proceeding about any communication made by the person participating in the addiction recovery fellowship to the individual who acts as a sponsor except with the written authorization of that person or, in the case of death or disability, the person’s personal representative.”
Without the fear of repercussions, those battling substance abuse issues can better receive the support they need. While the law doesn’t cover criminal charges, its application to civil court is still a big step in favor of protecting confidentiality in addiction recovery.
Additional Reading: So You Wanna be a Sponsor?
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