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Ethical issues in forensic psychiatry in penal and other correctional facilities

Konrad, Norbert

doi: 10.1097/YCO.0b013e32833bb2f2
Forensic psychiatry: Edited by Julio E. Arboleda-Flórez

Purpose of review Forensic mental health practitioners, especially psychiatrists working in jails, prisons or other correctional facilities, face special problems that are unlike others encountered in bioethics.

Recent findings Literature published during the past year shows that the forensic psychiatrist has to adhere to role clarity: as a physician, he is primarily obligated to the treatment and well being of the incarcerated patients and is not exclusively an agent of social control. Moreover, the general conditions in a therapeutic setting (e.g. dealing with medical confidentiality) have to be clear and transparent to the patients. Different ethical models building a fitting framework for forensic practice are used.

Summary Forensic psychiatric practice in penal and other correctional facilities poses particular ethical dilemmas. There is a great need for international humanitarian law, which serves both to protect vulnerable prisoners and to shield health professionals who treat prisoners with respect and dignity from abuse or penalty. It must be a common objective to find the right balance between protection from exploitation and access to research beneficial to prisoners.

Institute of Forensic Psychiatry, Charité – University Medicine Berlin, Berlin, Germany

Correspondence to Norbert Konrad, Institute of Forensic Psychiatry, Charité – University Medicine Berlin, Limonenstr. 27, 12203 Berlin, Germany Tel: +49 30 8445 1411; fax: +49 30 8445 1440; e-mail: norbert.konrad@charite.de

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.