Coercion in psychiatric care: Can paternalism justify coercion?

Mi Kyung Seo, Seung Hyun Kim, Minkyu Rhee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Background: It has long been debated whether coercion can be justified as paternalism in the field of mental health and it is still a continuing issue of controversy today. Aims: This study analyses whether coercive intervention in mental health can be justified by the basic assumptions of paternalists: the assumption of incompetence, the assumption of dangerousness and the assumption of impairment. Method: This study involved 248 patients: 158 (63.7%) were diagnosed with schizophrenia and 90 (36.3%) were diagnosed with mood disorder. In this study, experiences of coercion were divided into legal status, subjective (perceived coercion) and objective experiences (experienced coercion). Results: The assumption of incompetence was justified in all three categories of coercion whereas the assumption of dangerousness was not justified in any. The assumption of impairment was not justified in legal status and perceived coercion, but provided a partial explanation to serve as a basis for justifying experienced coercive measures. Conclusions: It can be noted that mental health experts who support paternalism without question must reconsider their previous methods. Above all, the reason why the assumption of dangerousness was not justified in any of the categories of coercion was because coercive intervention used to prevent harm to oneself and others must be very carefully carried out.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-223
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Social Psychiatry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013 May
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Korean Research Foundation Grant funded by the Korean Government (MOEHRD), Basic Research Promotion Fund (KRF-2009-32A-B00147).


  • Coercion in psychiatric care
  • Mental health service
  • Paternalism
  • Perceived coercion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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