University of Minnesota

World Psychiatric Association Ethics Committee, Guidelines Concerning Specific Situations (1996).


Concerning Specific Situations

The World Psychiatric Association Ethics Committee recognizes the need to develop a number of specific guidelines on a number of specific situations. Five such specific guidelines are stated below. In the future, the committee will address other critical issues such as the ethics of psychotherapy, new therapeutic alliances, relationship with the pharmaceutical industry, sex change and the ethics of managed care.

  1. EUTHANASIA: A physicianís duty, first and foremost, is the promotion of health, the reduction of suffering, and the protection of life. The psychiatrist, among whose patientare some who are severely incapacitated and incompetent to reach an informed decision, should be particularly careful of actions that could lead to the death of those who cannot protect themselves because of their disability. The psychiatrist should be aware that the views of a patient may be distorted by mental illness such as depression. In such situations, the psychiatristís role is to treat the illness.

  2. TORTURE: Psychiatrists shall not take part in any process of mental or physical torture, even when authorities attempt to force their involvement in such acts.

  3. DEATH PENALTY: Under no circumstances should psychiatrists participate in legally authorized executions nor participate in assessments of competency to be executed.

  4. SELECTION OF SEX: Under no circumstances should a psychiatrist participate in decisions to terminate pregnancy for the purpose of sex selection.

  5. ORGAN TRANSPLANTATION: The role of the psychiatrist is to clarify the issues surrounding organ donations and to advise on religious, cultural, social and family factors to ensure that informed and proper decisions be made by all concerned. The psychiatrists should not act as a proxy decision maker for patients nor use psychotherapeutic skills to influence the decision of a patient in these matters. Psychiatrists should seek to protect their patients and help them exercise self-determination to the fullest extent possible in situation of organ transplantation.


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