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date: 26 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Some features that collectively serve to distinguish psychiatry as a unique social and medical practice impose distinctive ethical challenges for practitioners. Challenges discussed are: (1) those associated with data protection and obligations around confidentiality; (2) those resulting from the practitioner’s expertize over core societal values; (3) those engendered by the controversy surrounding psychiatric practice; (4) dilemmas arising from dual roles, particularly when they are imposed by judicial and public safety institutions; and finally (5) those associated with visions of a post-psychiatry world put forward by critics of present day practices. In each of these ways, the ethical demands borne by the practitioner in psychiatry are distinctive and beyond the ordinary, in part as the result of a multiplier effect among the factors involved. Some challenges involve ethical dilemmas, others call for particular moral strengths (or character virtues), or extra obligations in practitioners; yet others place the practitioner in situations of ethical vulnerability.

Keywords: ethical uniqueness, data protection, expertize, societal values, post-psychiatry, dual roles, dilemmas, situations of ethical vulnerability, virtues, advance care directives

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