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Soc Sci Med. 2006 Jun;62(11):2861-73. Epub 2005 Dec 15.

Sharing decisions in consultations involving anti-psychotic medication: a qualitative study of psychiatrists' experiences.

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School of Social Sciences and Law, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex UB8 3PH, UK.


In psychiatry, and in treating people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia in particular, there are obstacles to achieving concordant, shared decision making and in building a co-operative therapeutic alliance where mutual honesty is the norm. Studies of people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia have revealed critical views of medical authority, particularly over the issue of enforced compliance with antipsychotic medication. Psychiatrists are known to place particular value on such medication. This qualitative study reports the views of 21 general adult psychiatrists working in UK about their experiences of consultations involving discussion of antipsychotic medication. Interviewees reported a general commitment to achieving concordant relationships with patients and described a number of strategies they used to promote this. In this respect, their self-perception differs from the picture of authoritarian practice painted by critics of psychiatry, and by some studies reporting patients' views. Interviewees also described obstacles to achieving concordance, including adverse judgements of patients' competence and honesty about their medication use. Explaining the adverse effects of medication was perceived to discourage some patients from accepting this treatment. Moments of strategic dishonesty were reported. Psychiatrists perceived that trust could be damaged by episodes of coercion, or by patients' perception of coercive powers. We conclude that a self-perception of patient-centredness may not preclude psychiatrists from fulfilling a social control function.

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