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Psychiatric wills of mental health professionals: a survey of opinions regarding advance directives in psychiatry.

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Department of Social Psychiatry and Evaluative Research, University of Vienna, Austria.


Psychiatric wills are advance directives for an eventual involuntary treatment in psychiatry. We attempted to determine psychiatric professionals' knowledge and opinion about this legal option and obtain their formulations of advance directives for themselves. A total of 101 psychiatric nurses and psychiatrists at the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Vienna responded to a questionnaire about psychiatric wills and anonymously drafted advance directives for themselves concerning psychiatric treatment in case of an acute psychosis. Fifty-four percent knew about this legal option, 55% considered it an appropriate legal possibility, and 29% considered it inappropriate. The study also found that 75% of respondents reject certain methods of therapy, e.g. 30% want to exclude the use of neuroleptic medications, and 46% reject ECT. We conclude that although there is little experience so far with advance directives for psychiatric patients, there is an interest and predominance of positive attitudes towards this legal option among mental health professionals. Concerning their preferences, professionals felt inclined to make very specific statements as to which available treatment strategies they would reject and which they would request for their treatment. This bodes well for the widespread use of advance directives in mental health settings.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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