Non-Consensual Treatment Is (Nearly Always) Morally Impermissible


  • Mark J. Cherry

    1. Dr. Patricia A. Hayes Professor in Applied Ethics and Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy at St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas.
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Commentators routinely urge that it is morally permissible forcibly to treat psychiatric patients (1) to preserve the patient's best interests and (2) to restore the patient's autonomy. Such arguments specify duties of beneficence toward others, while appreciating personal autonomy as a positive value to be weighted against other factors. Varying by jurisdiction, legal statutes usually require, in addition, at least (3) that there exists the threat of harm to self or others. In this paper, I argue against embracing the first two elements of this prevailing view. I also argue for a very restricted reading of the third element, based on the moral limits of permissible state action.