|Self Harm |
by Kerry Gutridge
During the past four years, my research has focused on the ethical, legal, philosophical and policy issues of self harm. In particular, I have been concerned with the ethical questions which arise when doctors or nurses allow patients to self harm in psychiatric hospitals. I first encountered this issue when it was reported in the British press that patients were being allowed to self cut in some NHS hospitals. For example, one inpatient was allowed to keep a piece of glass in a locked draw in her room and use it to cut her knees. This idea is of course controversial. Many people find the idea of allowing patients to self harm in medical institutions at best counter intuitive and at worst sickening and morally wrong. However, I argue that in certain circumstances patients should be allowed to self harm.
The research described in the book had an empirical component. I conducted qualitative interviews and focus groups with patients, doctors and nurses. In the interviews we explored people’s motivations and intentions when they self harm and possible consequences of allowing people to injure themselves in hospital. This was the first study conducted of its kind. This empirical work was integrated with analysis of relevant moral and philosophical questions raised by harm minimisation. Part of my argument looked at the way in which patient’s autonomy may be enhanced by combining harm minimisation with therapeutic engagement.
More information about my research can be found at my website. The website, co-edited with the philosopher A. M. Calladine, already hosts a number of articles by contributors such as Neil Levy, Katrina Sifferd and Nancy Nyquist Potter. We are expecting a post from Lisa Bortolotti in the near future. Topics range from issues in neuroethics such as consciousness and responsibility to the ethical issues of coercive treatment. The website is intended as a forum for debate between academics, students and the general public. It also functions as an educational resource for students studying bioethics, featuring videos and podcasts on psychiatry and ethics. If you would like to contribute to the site please contact me using the contacts page on the website.