Mental Health and Ethics
Common principles of medical deontology are also binding for psychiatry: health and welfare of the sick person is the highest law for the physician, whose duties include also the care for preservation and improvement of health in the whole society. Psychiatry, like other branches of medicine, encompasses prophylaxis, diagnosis, therapy, rehabilitation, expertise concerning the occurrences of mental illness and studies on ethiology, pathogenesis, symptoms and the course of diseases.
By mental health we should understand absence of mental disturbances and no other values. Mental health is itself a certain value but it may not be used as an element of the foundation of ethics.
In order to be able to morally evaluate different activities undertaken by psychiatry it is worthwhile to study critical trends in this field, such as radical orientations, or the anti-psychiatry movement even though the psychiatrists mean that “the defense of the mentally ill should be achieved through recognition of psychiatry as an autonomous critical discipline founded on the notion of mental illness…” (Barte).
The psychiatrists have therefore the right and the duty to prescribe therapies. But they do not claim to have the right to “govern” their patients. Problems of the justified use of coercion must be solved by the society, not by psychiatrists – in the society’s own interest, and in the interest of the patients.