The impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the medico-legal and human rights of psychiatric patients

authored by
Johannes Thome, Andrew N. Coogan, Frederick Simon, Matthias Fischer, Oliver Tucha, Frank Faltraco, Donatella Marazziti, Hermann Butzer

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised significant concerns for population mental health and the effective provision of mental health services in the light of increased demands and barriers to service delivery [1]. Particular attention is being directed toward the possible neuropsychiatric sequelae of both COVID-19 and of the stringent societal mitigation steps deployed by national governments, concerns that are informed by historical increases in the incidence of psychotic disorders following influenza pandemics [2]. However, so far there has been scant attention paid to other important areas of psychiatry during COVID-19, including medico-legal aspects and human rights. In this paper, we discuss the legal implications for psychiatry of the COVID-19 pandemic and report a novel situation in which psychiatric patients may experience diminution of their statutory protections. We believe that this represents a paradigm shift in psychiatric care and that the consideration of the fundamental rights of psychiatric patients as "less important" than infection control measures compel mental health professionals to "advocate for … patients and their caregivers" in this time of crisis [1].

Chair in Public Law , specializing in the Law of State Transfer Systems
External Organisation(s)
University of Rostock
Maynooth University
University of Groningen
University of Pisa
Saint Camillus International University of Health Sciences (UniCamillus)
European psychiatry : the journal of the Association of European Psychiatrists
Publication date
Publication status
Peer reviewed
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Psychiatry and Mental health
Sustainable Development Goals
SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
Electronic version(s) (Access: Open)