Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Is supervised community treatment ethically justifiable?
  1. Eric Dale
  1. Correspondence to Dr Eric Dale, Mental Health Department, Bassetlaw Hospital, Kilton Hill, Worksop, Nottinghamshire S81 0BD, UK; eric.dale{at}


Ethical viewpoints for and against the use of supervised community treatment (SCT), also known as outpatient commitment and community treatment orders, are examined. The perspectives of writers on civil liberties are considered. This paper argues that while civil liberties are an important concern SCT is ethically justifiable in the circumscribed population of ‘revolving door’ patients it applies to. This is on the grounds that it enables individuals to actualise their positive liberty. The issue of insight into mental illness is also considered and it is concluded that a further argument in favour of SCT comes from evidence that insight relates to neurobiological deficits. Limits to the ethical justifiability of SCT are considered with reference to individuals with substance dependency. The paper concludes that SCT is ethically permissible only in those with severe mental illness who have a history of losing capacity to consent to treatment and/or admission.

  • Involuntary civil commitment
  • legal aspects
  • mentally ill and disabled persons

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 None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.