For the Protection of Others

Health Care Analysis 8 (3):309-319 (2000)
Abstract
This paper investigates legal and moral justificationsof coerced treatment for psychiatric patients who aredetained on the grounds that they may harm others.While the general issues concerning compulsorytreatment and detention have been widely canvassed, ithas seldom, if ever, been noticed that the moralreasons that we may have to detain a person whoappears to be dangerous to others are different fromthe moral reasons we may have to treat him or her. For example, it has not been noticed that compulsorydetention and compulsory treatment are supported bytwo different moral principles, namely the Principleof Harm and the Principle of Beneficence, and,therefore, that the arguments which support compulsorydetention do not also support compulsorytreatment. The conceptual confusion between legitimacyof compulsory detention and legitimacy of compulsorytreatment is exacerbated by the ambiguous wordingutilised in S 3 of the UK Mental Health Act, whichimplies that treatment may be necessary for theprotection of others. Failure to pay attention to these distinctions has led to tragic consequences, in terms of violations of individual autonomy and in terms of public safety
Keywords protection of others  compulsory hospitalisation  compulsory treatment  psychopathic disorder  the value of autonomy
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