Ethical Challenges in Forensic Psychiatry

Norbert Konrad

Introduction

Forensic psychiatrists deal with some of the most difficult patients in psychiatry. They are concerned with the assessment of complex cases including risk assessment and with the treatment of mentally disordered offenders, typically in secure settings such as secure hospitals or prisons. Furthermore, forensic psychiatrists act as expert witness in court commenting, for example, on issues of criminal responsibility and competency to stand trial.

Abstract

Forensic psychiatrists are concerned with the assessment of complex cases including risk assessment and act as expert witness in court commenting, for example, on issues of criminal responsibility and competency to stand trial. The objective of this paper is to review the relevant forensic-psychiatric literature about the role of a forensic psychiatrist connected with conducting Independent Medical Examinations for which the WPA Scientific Section Forensic Psychiatry developed guidelines that refer to ethics, conduct of the examination, and content of the report. While the ethical issues facing forensic psychiatrists might be similar across cultures, they do also depend on the specific legal system and service provision within each country. It has to be concluded that a forensic psychiatrist should not only look on technical guidelines to structure the report, but has to respect the ethical frame as well as to be conscious of the cultural and societal context. Some questions referring to the dual-role dilemma remain open and unanswered.

 

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