Ethics and Mental Health : The Patient, Profession and Community book cover
1st Edition

Ethics and Mental Health
The Patient, Profession and Community

ISBN 9781444168648
Published September 24, 2013 by CRC Press
290 Pages 31 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

The field of ethics is expanding and has assumed new significance as a compulsory part of study for psychiatrists and all mental health professionals. Ethics and Mental Health: The Patient, Profession and Community presents a new approach to these ethical dilemmas that have become an increasing part of modern practice.

The book begins by exploring current normative theories of psychiatric ethics. It describes how empirical methods can make codes of conduct more representative of professional values. Considering their previous work, concepts of justice, and the moderate communitarian position, the authors outline their methodology, which argues that mental health professionals exist within a perpetual state of tension, caused by conflicts between the Hippocratic Oath, personal values, notions of social justice, and the potentially harmful influences of their social role.

Applying their theory to the area of involuntary psychiatric treatment, the authors address the context of psychiatric practice and the moral agency of psychiatrists. They outline the different influences on the craft of psychiatry to better illustrate the diverse forces that impact moral deliberation and the practice of ethics in mental health. In doing so, they cover areas as diverse as cultural, economic, scientific, and political domains.

The final section of the book applies the methodology to contemporary problems in mental health ethics, formulating how mental health clinicians can approach these quandaries. The book brings a new perspective to classic dilemmas from the past, to contemporary challenges, and in anticipation, to new concerns that will inevitably arise in a dynamic and complex professional context.

Table of Contents

A New Methodology for Mental Health Ethics

Methods of Ethical Reasoning in Psychiatry

Psychiatric Professional Ethics and the Social Contract

Communitarian Ethics and the Social Construction of Moral Agency

Moral Agency in Psychiatry

Contextual Influences

Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment

Psychiatry across Cultures


Psychiatry and Popular Culture

Psychiatric Ethics in the Light of Neuroscience

Applied Mental Health Ethics


Power and Knowledge in Psychiatry

Salud Mentale: Social Agency and Argentine Psychiatry

Protecting the People

The Wretched of the Earth

Coda: Whither Psychiatry?


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Clinical Associate Professor Michael Robertson is a community-based psychiatrist with special expertise in civil forensic psychiatry. He has published numerous articles and book chapters on ethics, psychological trauma, and philosophical aspects of psychiatry. His PhD examined ethics and PTSD and in 2009 he was appointed Clinical Associate Professor of psychiatric ethics at the University of Sydney, where he coordinates the mental health ethics unit of study in the Sydney Bioethics Program. His varied research interests include values-based practice, involuntary psychiatric treatment, and the practice of psychiatry in Nazi Germany.

Professor Garry Walter is Chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Sydney and is also Clinical Director of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, Northern Sydney Local Health District, and long-standing Editor of the journal Australasian Psychiatry. Professor Walter has published over 300 articles and has won a number of key research awards. His major research interests are in mood disorders in young people, physical treatments in psychiatry, genocide and severe trauma, psychiatric stigma, use and abuse of media, publishing processes and ethics. His PhD was on the use of electroconvulsive therapy in the young. In 2012, Professor Walter was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for services to medicine.


"Robertson and Walter’s book does not disappoint the reader. It is set out and written in a clear and educative style. We, the readers, are gradually and considerately initiated into the language and concepts of moral philosophy, and the particular dilemmas facing the psychiatrist and the profession. … The main issues of the past, present and immediate future of psychiatry are addressed. The authors offer a grounded and practical model for approaching them. … The moral philosophy of psychiatry and Robertson and Walter’s book are essential considerations for all of us."
Nick O’Connor, St Leonards, Sydney, Australasian Psychiatry, 2013

"Chapters end with extensive references and some have a summary of important points. Additionally, there are some diagrams, tables, and a few black-and-white photographs."
—Steven T. Herron, MD, University of Arizona Health Sciences Center for Doody's Review Service