Safer self-injury or assisted self-harm?

Psychiatric patients may try (or express a desire) to injure themselves in hospital in order to cope with overwhelming emotional pain. Some health care practitioners and patients propose allowing a controlled amount of self-injury to occur in inpatient facilities, so as to prevent escalation of distress. Is this approach an example of professional assistance with harm? Or, is the approach more likely to minimise harm, by ensuring safer self-injury? In this article, I argue that health care practitioners who use harm-minimisation can be considered to be helping physical injury to occur, although they do not encourage the act. I consider why there are compelling reasons to believe that a patient who self-injures is not maximally autonomous in relation to that choice. However, I then move onto argue that allowing a degree of self-injury may enable engagement with psychotherapy (enhancing autonomy) and behavioural change. In these circumstances, allowing injury (with precautions) may not be harm, all things considered.
Keywords Assistance  Ethics  Harm  Psychiatry  Self-injury
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11017-010-9135-z
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 23,280
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
David Lewis (2000). Causation as Influence. Journal of Philosophy 97 (4):182-197.
Joel Feinberg (1986). Harm to Self. Monograph Collection (Matt - Pseudo).

View all 17 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

75 ( #63,593 of 1,932,462 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

25 ( #20,955 of 1,932,462 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.