Complexity of ethical decision making in psychiatry

Ethics and Behavior 7 (1):1 – 14 (1997)
Psychiatric residents and psychiatrists have little difficulty in making judgments about a clinical course of action to take with patients. However, making ethical clinical decisions is more challenging, because psychiatric residents are usually provided little formal training in ethics. Further, many ethical dilemmas are complex, requiring knowledge of the psychiatric profession's ethics code, moral principles, law, and practice standards and of how they should be weighed in the decision-making process. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate this complexity in regard to the identification of potential ethical dilemmas, understanding the issues that these dilemmas raise, and formulating potential solutions to them. Two common but important areas of treatment in which ethical dilemmas arise (informed consent and competence of care) are used as examples for our presentation. The article demonstrates that to successfully engage in ethical analysis in psychiatry is impossible without substantial formal training in the process.
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