“Define ‘Normal’…” Panel Discussion on Ethical Issues in Mental Health and Psychiatric Care

March 2nd, 2012


“Abnormal, Immoral, or Pathological?:  Philosophical and Ethical Dimensions of Cluster B Personality Disorders”

 Dominic Sisti, director of the Scattergood Program for the Applied Ethics of Behavioral Healthcare at the University of Pennsylvania

Abstract:  Cluster B personality disorders seem to straddle the metaphysical line between severe pathology and what some consider to be grave moral failing. In this presentation, I will describe several philosophical perspectives on the concept of personality disorders and examine ethical problems related to the treatment of patients with cluster B personality disorders.



 “Fine!  Be a Loser.”

Chris Herrera, associate professor of philosophy at Montclair State University and Editor of Theoretical & Applied Ethics

Abstract: According to a conventional account of medical ethics, healthcare workers should follow moral principles or guidelines when they interact with patients which are not distinct from the ordinary guidelines they would use outside of the clinical setting. The assumption is that those ordinary rules simply have to be adapted to the special conditions that the healthcare workers can encounter. Patients are to have their autonomy respected, for example, because we take autonomy to be a central value in- or outside of medical contexts. Nevertheless, our moral systems are designed to impose some order on the interaction that takes place between rational adults, those who can reason about actions and outcomes, and in psychiatric care, there might be no meaningful sense of rationality on the part of the patients. While there is a tendency to think that caregivers can justify their treatment of the patients using a modified version of conventional medical ethics, it is unclear whether we can ask the staff to do this. In particular, it is unclear why the caregivers would have an obligation to think in terms of medical ethics when both the type of “medicine” they would be administering, with something like physical restraints, and the ethical justification involved, are likely to be so radically different.

Co-Sponsored by LOGOS:  The Philosophy and Religion Club and The Psychology Club