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From The CriticsReviewer: Brett C. Plyler, M.D. (Northwestern Memorial Hospital)
Description: This book explores the distinctive morality and character that a psychiatrist treating patients with severe mental illness must have and contends that psychiatrists would be best served by a virtue theory-based ethical standard.
Purpose: The purpose is to demonstrate why a psychiatrist has a different set of ethical standards in comparison to other physicians, and then defines what these ethical standards/virtue traits are and how to achieve them.
Audience: Psychiatrists are the audience.
Features: The book begins with an exploration of the history of psychiatric ethics, and the authors' contention that psychiatry has its own particular ethical standards distinct from the rest of the medical field. It then explores a more in-depth explanation of the need for distinctive psychiatric morals with regard to boundaries, patient vulnerability, and the social stigma of mental illness. Virtue theory and ethics are introduced as suited to the character demands placed upon psychiatrists. This section is followed by a discussion of gender identity and issues as they relate to the practice of psychiatry. The book concludes with vignettes demonstrating the virtues in action and the difficulties associated with adopting a virtue-based ethical framework.
Assessment: This is a worthwhile and interesting book. I readily identified with the virtue theory and its application to the practice of psychiatry. The exploration of the problems unique to psychiatry versus other medical specialties is handled quite well. The chapter on gender issues is both thoughtful and insightful. This is a very useful and important contribution to the ethics of psychiatry.