Ethical dilemmas are common in psychiatry.
These can include balancing the side-effects and benefits of long-term medication; compulsory treatment, electroconvulsive treatment and psychosurgery decisions; the limits of medical influence over patients' behaviour; and the extent to which doctors should be held responsible for their patients' actions.
These all raise fundamental ethical questions.
Some of these matters can seem straightforward, and some are governed by law, but inevitably in every psychiatrist's career ethical uncertainty will arise.
In these situations, an understanding of ethical principles is essential in reaching (and defending) a decision. Furthermore, having access to a clinical ethics committee where outside experts can provide guidance can lead to better care and provide professionals with advice and peace of mind when making difficult decisions.
The new CPD Online module on clinical ethics provides a fast primer in ethical principles, and sets out how to start and use a clinical ethics committee.