Developing World Bioethics 18 (2):91-97 (2018)

There is a ‘catch 22’ situation about applying coercion in psychiatric care. Autonomous choices undeniably are rights of patients. However, emphasizing rights for a mentally-ill patient could jeopardize the chances of the patient receiving care or endanger the public. Conversely, the beneficial effects of coercion are difficult to predict. Thus, applying coercion in psychiatric care requires delicate balancing of individual-rights, individual well-being and public safety, which has not been achieved by current frameworks. Two current frameworks may be distinguished: the civil liberty approach and the Stone model. Both frameworks are restrictive, and not respectful of human dignity. In a civil liberty approach, individuals who are severely mentally-ill but not dangerous would be denied care because they do not meet the dangerousness threshold or because the use of coercion will not lead to rebirthing of autonomy. This is unsatisfactory. Albeit involuntary interventions such as talk therapies, peer-support etc., may not always lead to rebirthing of autonomy or free patients from mental illness; they can however help to maintain the dignity of each mentally ill patient. In place of these frameworks, this study proposes a new ethical framework for applying coercion in psychiatric care that is respectful of human dignity. Specifically, it draws on insights from the African ethico-cultural system by using the Yoruba concept Omo-olu-iwabi to develop this new framework. This way, the study shows that only a more respectful approach for applying coercion in psychiatric care can lead to the careful balancing of the competing interests of individual's rights, individual's well-being and public safety.
Keywords African Ethical System  Coercion  Omo‐olu‐iwabi  Psychiatry  mental illness
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Reprint years 2018
DOI 10.1111/dewb.12137
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