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Br J Psychiatry. 1996 May;168(5):540-4.

Consent to neuroleptic medication for schizophrenia: clinical, ethical and legal issues.

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  • 1Scott Clinic, St Helens, Merseyside.



The effects of neuroleptic medication on schizophrenic patients are both positive (reduction in symptoms) and negative (adverse side-effects). Given that altered cognitive functioning may be a feature of schizophrenia, the use of neuroleptics raises important ethical and legal issues.


A selective review was carried out of papers addressing ethical arguments for and against obtaining consent from schizophrenic patients, and the ethical and legal requirements which must be met for consent to occur.


Although a balance must be met between arguments for and against obtaining consent, clinicians should seek informed consent in all but exceptional circumstances. Obtaining consent depends on the adequate presentation of information, the absence of duress and the patients' capacity to consent. Various tests of capacity to consent have been proposed.


It is proposed that clinicians employ a proforma to record attempts to obtain informed consent during routine clinical practice.

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