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Involuntary hospitalizations in psychiatry: what to do and what to avoid 

Involuntary hospitalizations in psychiatry: what to do and what to avoid
Involuntary hospitalizations in psychiatry: what to do and what to avoid

Sarah B. Johnson

, Corrado De Rosa

, and Michael Musalek

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date: 16 May 2022

Involuntary admission in psychiatry is a controversial but sometimes necessary health procedure. Rates of compulsory hospital admissions vary according to the different socio-cultural contexts. The criteria adopted by different legislations are based on the assumption that, in certain circumstances, individuals may not be able to recognize their need for treatment because of the severe and acute symptoms of illness. Although social ‘dangerousness’ seems to be one of the most common reasons for involuntary treatment, there have been some cultural and political movements which have denied dangerousness as a valid motivation for compulsory admission. This chapter provides: 1) legal and administrative aspects of involuntary admission in psychiatric wards; 2) information on ethical issues and patients’ rights, based on the statement that interventions must be provided according to the principle of the ‘least restrictive alternative’; and 3) practical suggestions for psychiatrists, hospital teams, and other professionals involved in compulsory admissions.

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