A Reminder

Ethics Morals Law

A reminder about the intersection of laws, ethics and morals. Whilst there is generally some overlap they do differ.

Most ethicists would say that ethics don't tend to change very much over time. Morals do change over time. A classic example is the societal change in view of homosexuality which was classified as a mental health condition in the DSM II! Laws reflect morality but tend to lag behind changes in societal norms. Again, think about the recent reforms to the laws of marriage in Australia.

Laws tend to be useful when attempting to define bad or unwanted behaviour and attaching punishment to these acts. Whilst laws often do also attempt to promote good or virtuous behaviour they are not so useful in promoting such behaviour. Arguably this is where ethics plays a strong role.

A dilemma occurs when ethics, morality and the law are in conflict.

We can track many of the past abuses attributable to psychiatry to a clash between ethics and the combination of morals and the law. Of particular problem was the essentially unlimited power and lack of oversight given to doctors who were placed in charge of mental health institutions.

Some famous cases of the abuse of Psychiatry power include: