I have written more than once at what if about how ridiculous our current laws regarding incarceration for the dangerously mentally ill. A good column this week on at least some possible changes to the law.
The law arguably plays a more prominent role in psychiatry than in any other field of medicine. Issues of personal and public safety, civil rights, accountability, privacy, confidentiality and competency are woven throughout the practice of psychiatry. But today's laws were mostly written decades ago, in
response to an era when doctors and hospitals had almost unbridled control over patients and their treatments.
What began as patient protections have in many instances become rigid rules and procedures that seem to exceed patient needs and even common sense. Good intentions spawned these laws, but in practice they can interfere with or delay the delivery of necessary care and crucial communication between caregivers and families—as families of people with serious mental illnesses can attest in often heartbreaking detail.