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Ethical aspects of personality disorders

Bendelow, Gillian

doi: 10.1097/YCO.0b013e32833e040d
History and philosophy: Edited by KWM (Bill) Fulford, John Z. Sadler and Paul Hoff

Purpose of review To review recent literature around the controversial diagnosis of personality disorder, and to assess the ethical aspects of its status as a medical disorder.

Recent findings The diagnostic currency of personality disorder as a psychiatric/medical disorder has a longstanding history of ethical and social challenges through critiques of the medicalization of deviance. More recently controversies by reflexive physicians around the inclusion of the category in the forthcoming revisions of International Classification of Diseases and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classifications reflect the problems of value-laden criteria, with the diagnostic category being severely challenged from within psychiatry as well as from without.

Summary The clinical diagnostic criteria for extremely value-laden psychiatric conditions such as personality disorder need to be analyzed through the lens of values-based medicine, as well as through clinical evidence, as the propensity for political and sociolegal appropriation of the categories can render their clinical and diagnostic value meaningless.

School of Law, Politics and Sociology, University of Sussex, Brighton, East Sussex, UK

Correspondence to Professor Gillian Bendelow, PhD, School of Law, Politics and Sociology, University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 9SP, East Sussex, UK Tel: +44 1273 877 558; e-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.