Ethics in Psychiatry

The research group “Ethics in Psychiatry” is a collaborative enterprise of the Institute for Medical Ethics and History of Medicine and the Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Preventive Medicine at the LWL University Clinic of the Ruhr University Bochum.

The treatment of persons with mental disorders raises a variety of ethical issues. For more than 20 years, our research group has conducted research on questions of patient autonomy, informed consent and decision-making capacity.

Mental health professionals and policymakers often raise the following questions:

  • What are the criteria for patient competence and how can competence be adequately assessed?
  • How can the autonomy of psychiatric service users be strengthened?
  • Under which conditions, if any, is it ethically justifiable to apply coercive measures?
  • By which methods can the use of coercion in psychiatry be reduced and are these methods ethically justifiable?
  • What are the specific ethical issues of end-of-life decision-making in patients with mental disorders?

We are an interdisciplinary group of researchers and we attempt to answer these questions by means of empirically informed ethical analysis. With backgrounds in psychiatry, psychology, philosophy and the empirical social sciences, we combine analytic skills with a thorough knowledge of the methods of quantitative and qualitative empirical research. Besides gaining knowledge, our aim is to provide mental health professionals with guidelines for ethical decision-making and to give practical recommendations for the improvement of psychiatric care.

In our projects we cooperate with national and international project partners such as Tanja Henking at the College for Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt, the Department of Medical Humanities at VU Medical Center Amsterdam, Thomas Schramme at the University of Liverpool and the research group Mental Health, Ethics and Law at King’s College London.