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Conceptions of decision-making capacity in psychiatry: interviews with Swedish psychiatrists
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2015 (English)In: BMC Medical Ethics, ISSN 1472-6939, Vol. 16, 34Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background: Decision-making capacity is a key concept in contemporary healthcare ethics. Previous research has mainly focused on philosophical, conceptual issues or on evaluation of different tools for assessing patients' capacity. The aim of the present study is to investigate how the concept and its normative role are understood in Swedish psychiatric care. Of special interest for present purposes are the relationships between decisional capacity and psychiatric disorders and between health law and practical ethics. Methods: Eight in-depth interviews were conducted with Swedish psychiatrists. The interviews were analysed according to descriptive qualitative content analysis in which categories and sub-categories were distilled from the material. Results: Decision-making capacity was seen as dependent on understanding, insight, evaluation, reasoning, and abilities related to making and communicating a choice. However, also the actual content of the decision was held as relevant. There was an ambivalence regarding the relationship between psychiatric disorders and capacity and a tendency to regard psychiatric patients who made unwise treatment decisions as decisionally incapable. However, in cases relating to patients with somatic illnesses, the assumption was rather that patients who made unwise decisions were imprudent but yet decisionally capable. Conclusions: The respondents' conceptions of decision-making capacity were mainly in line with standard theories. However, the idea that capacity also includes aspects relating to the content of the decision clearly deviates from the standard view. The tendency to regard imprudent choices by psychiatric patients as betokening lack of decision-making capacity differs from the view taken of such choices in somatic care. This difference merits further investigations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 16, 34
Keyword [en]
Psychiatry, Bioethics, Mental capacity, Personal autonomy, Paternalism, Involuntary commitment
National Category
Medical Ethics
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-262006DOI: 10.1186/s12910-015-0026-8ISI: 000359415200001PubMedID: 25990948OAI: diva2:851808
Swedish Research Council, 437-2014-299
Available from: 2015-09-07 Created: 2015-09-07 Last updated: 2015-09-07Bibliographically approved

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