Background: In recent years, the attention on the use of coercion in mental health care has increased. The use of coercion is common and controversial, and involves many complex ethical challenges. The research question in this study was: What kind of ethical challenges related to the use of coercion do health care practitioners face in their daily clinical work?
Methods: We conducted seven focus group interviews in three mental health care institutions involving 65 multidisciplinary participants from different clinical fields. The interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. We analysed the material applying a ‘bricolage’ approach. Basic ethical principles for research ethics were followed. We received permission from the hospitals’ administrations and all health care professionals who participated in the focus group interviews.
Results: Health care practitioners describe ethical dilemmas they face concerning formal, informal and perceived coercion. They provide a complex picture. They have to handle various ethical challenges, not seldom concerning questions of life and death. In every situation, the dignity of the patient is at stake when coercion is considered as morally right, as well as when coercion is not the preferred intervention. The work of the mental health professional is a complicated “moral enterprise”.
The ethical challenges deserve to be identified and handled in a systematic way. This is important for developing the quality of health care, and it is relevant to the current focus on reducing the use of coercion and increasing patient participation. Precise knowledge about ethical challenges is necessary for those who want to develop ethics support in mental health care. Better communication skills among health care professionals and improved therapeutic relationships seem to be vital.
Conclusions: A systematic focus on ethical challenges when dealing with coercion is an important step forward in order to improve health care in the mental health field.
This item's license is: Attribution 4.0 International