The Critical Mental Health Nurses’ Network want to begin a profession-wide conversation about the possibility of a right to conscientious objection to enforcing treatment.
This is a serious and complicated subject and needs to be handled with great care. However, we believe that this is an important conversation to have at this time, a time in which the professional, intellectual and personal reasons for concern about forced treatment have been brought into new focus within a changing ethical and evidential context. Initially, we would like to collect together a group of nurses, student nurses and others who can contribute thoughtfully to this conversation. We would also like to involve service users, next-of-kin/carers, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and hospital managers.
Key points to remember:
If you would like to be part of this discussion, please contact us through this website’s ‘contact us’ page. We are not asking you to share your views about forced treatment at this stage, just to identify yourself as wanting to contribute so that the CMHNN can assess the best way of bringing us together.
It is not the intention of this discussion to create some kind of position statement about whether forced treatment is finally ethical or finally unethical and, as a network of critical thinkers, we would probably be skeptical about binary positions. We are not at this stage planning to consider if the law is morally wrong. We plan to exclude wider questions about detention itself. Instead, our aim is to establish whether we believe that present circumstances suggest that there should be a right for individual mental health nurses to object to taking part in forced treatment as a matter of personal/professional conscience and for this right to make it safe for them to refuse to participate (either in totality or in specific circumstances). If we feel that this right is something for which we should campaign, we will then need to discuss ways in which that campaign should take place.
We already know that issues of blame and responsibility between professional groups add heat and are part of the reason that this subject is so rarely properly discussed. Our beginning position is that forced treatment has many causes and deciding upon blame or a ‘final cause’ is not necessary. This is an hugely important, sensitive and broad subject but actually our focus is a relatively narrow one: should mental health nurses have the right to conscientious objection from enforcing treatment?