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Although the paper in this issue by Verhofstadt et al sheds some light on the features of unbearable suffering stemming from psychiatric disorder leading to a request for euthanasia, this is limited. The bulk of the paper illustrates the particular ethical challenges posed by the policy of making euthanasia available in these circumstances.
Democratic therapeutic community (DTC) treatment has been used for many years in an effort to help people with personality disorder. High-quality evidence from randomised controlled trials (RCTs) is absent.
To test whether DTC treatment reduces use of in-patient services and improves the mental health of people with personality disorder.
An RCT of 70 people meeting DSM-IV criteria for personality disorder (trial registration: ISRCTN57363317). The intervention was DTC and the control condition was crisis planning plus treatment as usual (TAU). The primary outcome was days of in-patient psychiatric treatment. Secondary outcomes were social function, mental health status, self-harm and aggression, attendance at emergency departments and primary care, and satisfaction with care. All outcomes were measured at 12 and 24 months after randomisation.
Number of in-patient days at follow-up was low among all participants and there was no difference between groups. At 24 months, self- and other directed aggression and satisfaction with care were significantly improved in the DTC compared with the TAU group.
DTC is more effective than TAU in improving outcomes in personality disorder. Further studies are required to confirm this conclusion.
Patients with severe and enduring somatoform disorders (SESD) characteristically present with multiple, recurrent and frequently changing physical symptoms that have usually been present for several years before referral to a psychiatrist/psychologist. Many patients report long histories of contact with both primary and tertiary care services, have undergone repeated fruitless investigations and have high levels of disability. SESD are responsible for disproportionately high healthcare costs and are the third most common cause of workplace absence. Identification of patients with SESD by psychiatrists requires particular skills: collaboration with colleagues is vital and there are risks of iatrogenic harm. We describe the obstacles encountered in identifying these patients as well as methods of assessment and management. Treatment pathways best suited to managing this large and as yet untended group of patients are described.
Psychiatric treatment can enhance human morality. It can promote the emergence of moral motives and intentions, aid in the acquisition of skills essential to moral action, and help to develop the ability to apply moral understanding and skills in particular circumstances. Good psychiatric practice demands an honest appraisal of its moral dimension.