Psychiatry is often fraught with uncertainties and complex situations which give rise to particular ethical issues. However, there is still a dearth in formal training in psychiatric ethics. In this perspective by a clinician, researcher and bioethicist, a case is made for a special status in medical ethics and the need for the incorporation of a structured educational programme in psychiatric ethics during residency training. This educational process should also include the acquiring of certain virtues and competencies.
One of the leading lights of modern psychiatry, Nancy Andreasen, once wrote this about the practice of psychiatry:
We chose psychiatry because we want to
understand the human mind and spirit as well
as the human brain. We chose to join a very
clinical specialty because we are interested
in people and we like to work with them as
individual people. We like to think about them
within the context of the social matrix in which
they live, to skillfully elicit a “life narrative” that
summarizes their past and current experiences,
and to use that information in order to
understand how their symptoms arise and can
be treated. Every person whom we encounter
is a new adventure, a new voyage of discovery,
a new life story, a new person. Although some
patterns generalize across individuals, each
patient is unique.
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