In considering what one justice called a “landmark” issue involving the privacy rights of parents accused of child abuse, the high court has ruled that a mother cannot be ordered to undergo psychological testing in conjunction with dependency proceedings. A majority of the justices said their decision preserved the constitutional right to privacy but two dissenters claimed the decision could pose a grave danger to dependent children and lowers the duty the state owes to them. Reversing the Superior Court, the justices ruled 5-2 in In the Matter of T.R., PICS Case No. 99-1247 (Pa. June 23, 1999) Flaherty, C.J.; Nigro, J., concurring; Zappala, J., concurring; Newman & Castille, J.J., dissenting (26 pages) that an allegedly abusive mother does not have to submit to court-ordered psychological testing. “It is one thing for the mother to agree to psychological evaluation and to voluntarily undergo instruction in self-improvement, but it is quite another for the state, in its paternalistic might, to order a psychological evaluation in violation of the mother’s constitutional rights, presumably upon pain of imprisonment for contempt of court,” Justice John Flaherty wrote for the majority. “The constitution is not a mere policy statement to be overridden by a sociological scheme for the improvement of society.”


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