An ethical reflection on outreaching mental health care
background Care providers have a conflicting societal role: on the one hand they must respect the autonomy of individuals with psychiatric problems, but on the other hand they often feel the need to offer these individuals outreaching care.
aim To compile an ethical reflection on some of the ways in which outreaching mental health care interventions can be provided in a responsible manner.
method This ethical reflection is based on an ethical advice by the Ethics committee for Mental Health Care of the Brothers of Charity in Flanders. The method combines ethical discussion and a study of the relevant literature.
results A good starting point is a relational view of the human being that emphasises connectedness and involvement. Consequently, the care provider begins to intervene in the care programme by building a trusting relationship with the person with psychiatric problems. This is how these persons, their close family and friends and care providers exercise their responsibility. There is a gradation of responsibility that extends in a continuous line: personal responsibility develops into shared responsibility which can then become vicarious responsibility. On that basis there is also a gradation in the nature of outreaching care; the care providers first make themselves available and give information, then provide advice, negotiate, persuade, increase pressure, and finally take over and force the person with psychiatric problems.
conclusion The care providers choose in dialogue and in a considered and consistent way for the appropriate form of outreaching care, in line with the degree of responsibility that the person with psychiatric problems can assume.