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J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2006;34(3):385-94.

Superseding psychiatric advance directives: ethical and legal considerations.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center, Box 3071, Durham, NC 27710, USA.


Psychiatric advance directives (PADs) were introduced in the 1980s as legal instruments for psychiatric patients to retain some choice over their own mental health treatment during periods of decisional incapacity. However, PADs are nested in larger structures of mental health law and policy that protect the interests of parties other than the patient, and which, in situations of conflict involving the treatment of incapacitated patients, tend to favor the clinician's professional judgment over the patient's manifest wishes to avoid standard treatment. Thus, PADs are trumped by civil commitment law and may also be legally overridden by clinicians who, acting in good faith, consider PAD instructions to be inconsistent with accepted clinical standards of care. We discuss philosophical-ethical and legal issues surrounding overriding PADs and offer analysis of the possible future of legal cases in which the question of overriding PADs and fiscal concerns may collide.

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