Ethical analysis of a curious event of a forensic case becoming an involuntarily hospitalized psychiatric patient [2018]

It is not uncommon in forensic psychiatry that the duty to care for the patient conflicts with the responsibility to the court, or the duty to protect the public from harm from the potentially dangerous patient-offender. This paper exemplifies the scenario of what happens when the line between forensic and clinical psychiatry is crossed and whether crossing that boundary can be justified. Ethical discussion also embodies and clarifies the issues of unjustified violation of the patients’ autonomy and an undue infringement on their right to liberty on the arbitrary basis of existing or perceived mental illness. The paper provides an in-depth analysis of the issues of physicians’ conflicting duties, vulnerability of patient-offenders, and their human rights in the light of court orders and involuntary hospitalizations.

I argue that in order to promote ethical decision-making we must establish clear rules and guidelines for psychiatric practice, separate conflicting roles, and provide sufficient training of health-care professionals regarding topics of human rights and legislation governing clinical and forensic psychiatric practice. Empowering patients and enhancing their rights to autonomy and liberty can also be potent tools of promotion and protection of their human rights and prevention of ethical breaches in practice.

Tea Dakić
The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 13 Nov 2018