Internet Access for Patients on Psychiatric Units [2018]

Millions of Americans rely on Internet access to fulfill everyday needs, yet psychiatric units frequently restrict patients from going online. This article reviews the evolution of legal rights for hospitalized psychiatric patients in the United States over the past 50 years and argues that legal oversight of psychiatric hospitalization has not kept pace with the rise of digital technology. As a result of this discrepancy, Internet access on inpatient psychiatry remains controversial and often varies by institution. This article examines literature on Internet use by psychiatric patients, as well as recent court cases relevant to this topic. Finally, this article addresses clinical considerations surrounding Internet access for psychiatric inpatients and provides recommendations for the development of Internet policies in inpatient psychiatric settings.

Nathaniel P. Morris
Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, June 2018, 46 (2)