Mental Illness Case Study

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Individuals with mental illnesses have been successfully treated in the past through different methods including psychotherapy and medication. However, an ethical dilemma presents itself when individuals with severe mental illness refuse to receive treatment for their disorders. In recent decades, the use of forced medication has emerged as “one of the most controversial issues in mental health policy in recent decades” (Swartz, Swanson, & Hannon, 2003, p. 406). The medical community is torn between whether it is appropriate to grant these patients’ wishes or if it’s best to continue on with the treatment they recommend. Despite frequently being faced with this ethical dilemma, society still has not reached an agreement regarding how to proceed.
Some believe that involuntary treatment for those with mental illnesses is sometimes necessary and in the best interest of the patients. Due to their specific illness, some individuals are unable to make proper judgment about their need for treatment. People with schizophrenia, for example, may have anosognosia, a lack of awareness of their mental illness, or have delusional beliefs and suspicions towards medication. Those with depression or bipolar disorder might also have impaired insight of the severity of their mental illness. Studies have shown a strong association between lack of awareness and medical nonadherence (Nose, Barbui, & Tansella, 2003). Furthermore, disorders that are ego-syntonic, or those in which the patient believes the disorder is part of their identity, impair insight into the extent of the disorder. Individuals with anorexia nervosa might resist receiving treatment because they are proud of their slight physiques and fear the weight gain involved in treatment.

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...cision behind the use of forced treatment should be on a patient-by-patient basis. Although it does infringe on the fundamental civil liberties of individuals, those with severe mental illnesses that threaten their lives could be treated and consequently saved from the deleterious symptoms of their disorders. Medication could effectively free patients of their symptoms and give them back the autonomy to make rational decisions regarding their personal health. Still, the ambiguous line in determining whether or not a patient has this ability will continue to exist. Medical practitioners must carefully consider each individual case before prescribing treatment without consent. Even though there may be some cases in which patients have their rights unjustly infringed upon, in the end the employment of forced treatment may benefit more mental illness patients than not.
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