one of the best collections of articles in its area. Most of the authors are psychiatrists, and the book is aimed
primarily at mental health professionals, but it is accessible to others as
well. Most of the authors are from the
USA, but there are some international contributions, especially from the
UK. It compares well with the more
patchy and diverse collection of articles edited by Rem Edwards in Ethics of
Its a large work, with 24 chapters
and 550 pages. Most of the articles
appeared in the earlier second
edition, but have been updated or even substantially rewritten for this
third edition, and so the information in the book is still current. Theres only a little discussion of legal
issues, since the focus is very much on the ethical problems faced by mental
health professionals, and especially psychiatrists. The writing is mostly clear and the stances taken by the authors
are mainstream: antipsychiatry and radical views are given very little space.
Some chapters are of course better
than others. Glen Gabbard gives a very
useful discussion of Boundary violations with several helpful cases to
illustrate his points. Bill Fulford
gives one of the lengthiest papers, setting out the philosophical issues behind
the definition of mental disorder; it is one of Fulfords clearest pieces of
work, and repays careful study. Paul Brown and Christos Pantelis give a very
thorough discussion of Ethical aspects of drug treatment, covering different
medications, assessing the risks and benefits, getting informed consent,
patients rights, treatment refusal, and pharmacoeconomics. One of my favorite chapters is on Ethics
and child psychiatry, by Philip Graham, in which he outlines a number of
important issues with great clarity and common sense.
The book has an appendix of codes of
ethics, which is informative, but it would be a mistake to turn to this book
with an expectation that it will provide the answer to all ethical problems, or
even an algorithm for readers to find the right answer. Rather, Psychiatric Ethics gives
readers materials careful and serious discussions of most of the moral
quandaries facing mental health practitioners today, together with some
historical background. Strongly
recommended for anyone with a serious interest in this important area..
© 2002 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.
Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College,
Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review.
His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry.
He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can
play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help foster
communication between philosophers, mental health professionals,
and the general public.