In whose ‘best interests’? Ethical issues involved in the moral dilemmas surrounding the removal of sexually abused adolescents from a community-based residential treatment unit to a locked, forensic adult psychiatric unit

Authors

  • Johnathan R. Welsh BSc(Hons) Dip.Ad. Study of Health care RMN SEN(psyc)

    1. Staff nurse, Young Peoples Centre, 10 College Gardens, Belfast, Northern Ireland
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Abstract

This study scrutinizes the ethical and moral dilemmas surrounding the removal of sexually abused adolescents from a community-based residential treatment unit to a locked, forensic adult psychiatric unit. Adolescent victims of sexual abuse exhibit a plethora of psychopathological symptomatology which can lead in many cases to the adolescent resorting to self-injurious behaviours in an attempt to relieve feelings of tension, anxiety and guilt. Because the unit in which the writer is involved is an open, community-based treatment centre with limited staffing levels, a completely secure environment may be compromised. Consequently self-injurious adolescents may become so disturbed that a more secure environment must be sought. The limited resources for disturbed adolescents in Northern Ireland means that occasionally the only option available to health care professionals who find themselves in this situation is to utilize the services of the psychiatric adult, forensic unit in Belfast which is contained within a large psychiatric hospital. Many would agree that such a placement for a disturbed adolescent seems inappropriate but is at the same time unavoidable. This study will examine the ethical and moral minefield that only recently has become a dilemma for health care professionals and particularly for nurses endeavouring to adhere to the code of professional conduct.

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