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Justice and welfare: two ethical paradigms in forensic psychiatry

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Forensic psychiatry, as a medical specialty, perhaps understandably leans toward beneficence or welfare as its main ethical underpinning. However, the special nature of the art or science of forensic psychiatry makes it imperative that beneficence is not the only ethical principle that guides the ‘good’ forensic psychiatrist. Indeed, the commonest ethical dilemmas in forensic psychiatry arise from a conflict between two ethical principles: beneficence, or promotion of welfare, and respect for justice. These two paradigms dominate discussions about the moral role and ethical duties of forensic psychiatrists and, in effect, give rise to two different practices in forensic psychiatry, each of which can also be said to have acquired a national identity. We discuss these competing principles and offer some thoughts about what this means for the ethics and values of forensic psychiatry.

Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 2005; 39:1011–1017

Keywords: beneficence; ethics; forensic; justice; psychiatry; welfare

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2005-11-01

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