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Involuntary Commitment in Health Care; An Analysis of the Status and Rights of Involuntarily Treated Psychiatric Patients in Comparison with Patients Treated Involuntarily under Other Acts

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A number of international legal and ethical guidelines attempt to safeguard patients' rights in various health care areas. On the national level, health care legislation defines the rights of different patient groups more concretely in everyday practice. In general, the right to decide about one's own treatment — and to refuse treatment — is considered to be of the greatest importance. Several patient groups can, however, be treated involuntarily. In addition to minors, psychiatric patients in certain situations form a group of patients whose own will can be overridden in health care. In Finland also intoxicant abusers, the mentally retarded and patients suffering from certain communicable diseases can in special situations be taken into involuntary care. This article discusses the differences between the status and rights of involuntarily treated patients in different social and health care acts in Finland. Several paragraphs of the laws studied were identified that assign more rights to patients treated involuntarily under the Act on Social Work with Intoxicant Abusers and the Act on Special Care for the Retarded than to involuntary psychiatric patients. The practical implications of this article will be discussed.

Affiliations: 1: BSc University of Tampere, Tampere School of Public Health and Tampere University Hospital, Finland; 2: University of Tampere, Department of Nursing Science


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