Comparison of philosophical concerns between professionals and the public regarding two psychiatric treatments

Laura Yenisa Cabrera, Marisa Brandt, Rachel McKenzie, Robyn Bluhm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Psychiatric interventions are a contested area in medicine, not only because of their history of abuses, but also because their therapeutic goal is to affect emotions, thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that are regarded as pathological. Because psychiatric interventions affect characteristics that seem central to who we are, they raise issues regarding identity, autonomy, and personal responsibility for one’s own well-being. Our study addresses two questions: (1) Do the public and academic researchers understand the philosophical stakes of these technologies in the same way? Following from this, (2) to what extent does the specific type of psychiatric technology affect the issues these two groups raise? This study compares how ethical issues regarding neurosurgical and pharmaceutical psychiatric interventions are discussed among the public and in the professional community of academic medicine and bioethics. Methods: We analyzed (1) online public comments and (2) the medical and bioethics literature, comparing the discussions of pharmacological and neurosurgical interventions in psychiatry in each source. Results: Overall, the public discussed philosophical issues less frequently than academics. For the two types of psychiatric interventions, we found differences between the academic literature and public comments among all themes, except for personal responsibility. Conclusions: These findings reveal some of the similarities and discrepancies in how philosophical issues associated with psychiatric treatments are discussed in professional circles and among the public. Further research into what causes these discrepancies is crucial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)252-266
Number of pages15
JournalAJOB Empirical Bioethics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Philosophy
  • Health Policy


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