Ethics, legal issues and the rights of people with a mental illness

Eimear Muir-Cochrane, Adam Gerace, Janne McMahon

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


INTRODUCTION Ethical, legal and economic decisions profoundly influence mental health practice, and bring about changes in the understanding and practice of mental health intervention. These changes challenge the psychiatric– mental health nurse to ­ examine such central issues as the following:
■ How does one balance the common ‘good’ and the individual ‘good’ in health care?
■ What are the rights and accountabilities of nurses and people with mental illness?
An examination of these issues generally improves care, but it often confuses the boundaries of ethical behaviour, mental health practice and the law. This confusion entraps mental health care professionals, people with a mental illness, families, lawyers and the public in a muddle of conflicting policies and procedures. In addition, a person’s right to privacy, and to receive and refuse treatment, pivots on society’s values. This chapter will bring some clarity to the everchanging relationship between ethics, the law and mental health services, so that you can practise ethically and with confidence, and also exercise your power as citizens, professionals and advocates to influence the direction of mental health care.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationContemporary psychiatric-mental health nursing
Subtitle of host publicationPartnerships in Care
EditorsLorna Moxham, Michael Hazelton, Eimear Muir-Cochrane, Tim Heffernan, Carol Ren Kneisl, Eileen Trigoboff
Place of PublicationMelbourne, Victoria
PublisherPearson Australia
Number of pages16
Edition1st adapted Australian ed.
ISBN (Electronic)9781488610752
ISBN (Print)9781486023905
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • competency
  • discharge
  • expert witness
  • informed consent
  • fitness to plead
  • involuntary admission
  • least restrictive setting
  • mental impairment/ illness/ incompetence or insanity defence
  • Tarasoff decision
  • voluntary admission

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  • Cite this

    Muir-Cochrane, E., Gerace, A., & McMahon, J. (2018). Ethics, legal issues and the rights of people with a mental illness. In L. Moxham, M. Hazelton, E. Muir-Cochrane, T. Heffernan, C. R. Kneisl, & E. Trigoboff (Eds.), Contemporary psychiatric-mental health nursing : Partnerships in Care (1st adapted Australian ed. ed., pp. 210-225). Pearson Australia.