Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Epistemic problems with mental health legislation in the doctor–patient relationship


Mental health legislation that requires patients to accept ‘care’ has come under increasing scrutiny, prompted primarily by a human rights ethic. Epistemic issues in mental health have received some attention, however, less attention has been paid to the possible epistemic problems of mental health legislation existing. In this manuscript, we examine the epistemic problems that arise from the presence of such legislation, both for patients without a prior experience of being detained under such legislation and for those with this experience. We also examine how the doctor is legally obligated to compound the epistemic problems by the knowledge they prioritise and the failure to generate new knowledge. Specifically, we describe the problems of testimonial epistemic injustice, epistemic silencing, and epistemic smothering, and address the possible justification provided by epistemic paternalism. We suggest that there is no reasonable epistemic justification for mental health legislation that creates an environment that fundamentally unbalances the doctor–patient relationship. Significant positive reasons to counterbalance this are needed to justify the continuation of such legislation.

  • Coercion
  • Ethics
  • Legislation
  • Mental Health
  • Psychiatry

Data availability statement

No data are available. No data are used.

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.