Coercion in Psychiatric Care: What Have We Learned from Research?

C. W. Lidz,
Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 26(4): 631-637, 1998.
The use of coercion to assure that people with a mental illness receive treatment has been the focus one of the longest running controversies among mental health professionals. Until quite recently, however, this debate has been almost entirely based on abstract principles. Empirical research concerning coercion was quite limited. Recently, however, research in this field has blossomed. The development of a validated measure of perceived coercion has spawned a variety of new studies. A five-nation study in Scandinavia has begun the difficult task of assessing the impact of different legal systems and systems of care on perceived coercion. Two new studies have used random assignment designs to study the impact of outpatient commitment. This article reviews these and other studies and describes what they do, and do not, tell us about coercion in mental health treatment.