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Ethical considerations in clinical training, care and research in psychopharmacology

Rael D. Strous
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1461145710001112 413-424 First published online: 1 April 2011


Psychopharmacology is a powerful tool in psychiatry; however, it is one that demands responsibility in order to deal with the ethical complexities that accompany advances in the field. It is important that questions are asked and that ethical mindfulness and sensitivity are developed along with clinical skills. In order to cultivate and deepen ethical awareness and subsequently solve issues in optimal fashion, investment should be made in the development of an ethical decision-making process as well as in education in the ethics of psychopharmacology to trainees in the field at all stages of their educational development. A clear approach to identifying ethical problems, engaging various ethical concepts in considering solutions and then applying these principles in problem resolution is demanded. An openness in identifying and exploring issues has become crucial to the future development and maturation of psychopharmacologists, both research and clinical. Consideration must be given to the social implications of psychopharmacological practice, with the best interests of patients always paramount. From both a research and clinical perspective, psychopharmacology has to be practised with fairness, sensitivity and ethical relevance to all. While ethical issues related to psychopharmacological practice are varied and plentiful, this review focuses on advances in technology and biological sciences, personal integrity, special populations, and education and training.

Key words
  • Ethics
  • informed consent
  • mindfulness
  • psychopharmacology
  • responsibility
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