The aim of the present study was to investigate epidemiological data on involuntary hospitalization of underage patients in psychiatric settings and illustrate the related ethical issues. The medical records of 131 involuntary psychiatric admissions of children and adolescents ordered by public prosecutor between 2005 and 2014 were examined carefully. The examined variables involved the place of origin, the place of residence of minors after discharge, the length of stay in hospitals, the discharge diagnosis, the rate at which the minors were introduced to police and other authorities before their hospitalization, and the results of the neuropsychological assessment (WISC II). Data were analyzed by SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences). The mean age of the minors was 14.19 years (Male: Female ratio; 1.6:1). First, a high rate of incidences of compulsory admissions was found [5-year period (2005-2009):(2010-2014) ratio; 1:1.85] most likely due to organizational factors, which, however, could have been avoided in a more patient-oriented healthcare system. It is most likely that the criteria used for making decisions in favor of compulsory admissions were disproportionately (unduly) broad. In parallel, it was observed that, during 2010-2014, despite the increase in the rate of the prosecutor’s orders, there was a decrease in the duration of coercive hospitalization of minors in psychiatric departments of hospitals in comparison to the period 2005-2009 [5-year period duration of hospitalization (2005-2009):(2010-2014) ratio; 2.33:1]. Furthermore, family was found likely to wield considerable influence on the decision-making for compulsory admissions. In addition, the effectiveness of a compulsory hospitalization of minors in a child and adolescent psychiatry department was found largely dependent on the type of the underlying mental health problem. In that respect, low rates of recidivism (7.6%) indicated that the measure of involuntary hospitalization was necessary and effective. It was also observed that the short-term removal of the minor from the family environment was a potentially relieving strategy for both the child and the family apart from the need for therapeutic intervention. The paper concludes by highlighting the role of a multi-stakeholder decision-making process (which entails shared decision-making as an integral component of providing mental healthcare to minors) in facilitating a decision about involuntary psychiatric hospitalization that is proportional and respectful to patient autonomy.

Key words: Involuntary hospitalization, bioethics, child psychiatry, autonomy, decision-making, prosecutor’s order.

P. Voultsos, E. Tsamadou, M.-V. Karakasi, N. Raikos, P. Pavlidis (page 129)

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