Policy Implications of the Biological Model of Mental Disorder

Nursing Ethics 7 (5):412-424 (2000)
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The current dominant paradigm of mental disorder is that psychopathology is a deviation from normal physiological functioning of the brain. This paradigm is closely allied to the identity theory of mind in philosophy, which holds that mental phenomena are identical with the physical state of the brain. The assumptions of the biological model have policy implications, regardless of the utility or ‘truth’ of the paradigm, which should be made explicit for the assessment of ethics in mental health policy formulation. The nature of mental phenomena has been debated throughout history, without consensus. Several critiques of the biological model are offered to encourage enquiring scepticism. The policy implications discussed are political conservatism, broadened rationales for forced treatment, utility in managed care, and the use of medical necessity criteria to allocate treatment



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