Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Mental disorder ethics: theory and empirical investigation
  1. N Eastman1,
  2. B Starling2
  1. 1Department of Mental Health, St George’s Medical School, University of London, London, UK
  2. 2Biomedical Ethics, The Wellcome Trust, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 N Eastman
 Department of Mental Health, St George’s University of London, Cramer Terrace, London, SW17 0RE; neastman{at}


Mental disorders and their care present unusual problems within biomedical ethics. The disorders themselves invite an ethical critique, as does society’s attitude to them; researching the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders also presents special ethical issues. The current high profile of mental disorder ethics, emphasised by recent political and legal developments, makes this a field of research that is not only important but also highly topical. For these reasons, the Wellcome Trust’s biomedical ethics programme convened a meeting, “Investigating Ethics and Mental Disorders”, in order to review some current research, and to stimulate topics and methods of future research in the field. The meeting was attended by policy makers, regulators, research funders, and researchers, including social scientists, psychiatrists, psychologists, lawyers, philosophers, criminologists, and others. As well as aiming to inspire a stronger research endeavour, the meeting also sought to stimulate an improved understanding of the methods and interactions that can contribute to “empirical ethics” generally.

This paper reports on the meeting by describing contributions from individual speakers and discussion sections of the meeting. At the end we describe and discuss the conclusions of the meeting. As a result, the text is referenced less than would normally be expected in a review. Also, in summarising contributions from named presenters at the meeting it is possible that we have created inaccuracies; however, the definitive version of each paper, as provided directly by the presenter, is available at

  • mental disorder
  • treatment
  • law
  • capacity
  • empirical ethics
  • interdisciplinary

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Competing interests: NE is Chair of the Wellcome Trust’s Biomedical Ethics Funding Committee. BS is an employee of the Wellcome Trust.