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Expertise, evidence and ethics in decisons on compulsory care

Expertise, evidence and ethics in decisons on compulsory care - an investigation of the epistemic borderland between medicine and law

The project is a multidisciplinary investigation of how a combined legal and medical assessment is made in decisions concerning the continuation of involuntary psychiatric treatment, and discharge from forensic psychiatric care with “special court supervision” respectively. Scholars from the fields of legal philosophy, theory of science, and jurisprudence come together to analyse how legal decisions about involuntary psychiatric treatment are formed and motivated in the Swedish administrative courts, and how the ethical values autonomy, life and health and societal protection are balanced when applying the law. Of particular concern is the role of the medical expert in such judicial proceedings and how notions of legal and scientific objectivity are established and maintained in practice.
The project examines two types of legal proceedings in which lawyers and doctors judge whether or not a person should be subjected to involuntary psychiatric care. In so called LPT-cases it is decided if patients may be held against their will as they are refusing to accept ’indispensible care’. In LRV-cases the question concerns whether a person is healthy and harmless enough to be released from forensic psychiatric care. The medical assessment does not form one discrete part of an overall legal argument in such proceedings, but it is the assessment itself that is being tried. Previous studies of LPT-cases indicate that it is not clear to courtroom participants what their respective roles and tasks are, and that court rulings almost exclusively concur with the psychiatrist’s assessment. The outcome of LRV-processes have not yet been systematically investigated. The study combines a multidisciplinary analytical perspective with a broad methodological approach to investigate how a combined medical and legal assessment is made in these cases. In-depth interviews with judges, doctors, jurors, and court –appointed medical experts will be linked to a quantitative and qualitative examination of court rulings. The research questions, as well as data analysis, are processed in an inter-disciplinary framework representing theory of science, sociology of knowledge, jurisprudence and ethics.
The project hopes to make an important contribution to the vital discussion regarding the boundary between medicine and law, and how practices of different professions are formed at an individual as well as institutional level. The combined methodological and theoretical approaches from the fields of theory of science, philosophy and jurisprudence respectively, will generate new results and analytical insights and contribute to existing research in conceptual studies of central medical and legal concepts; epistemic research on credibility, methodology and expertise; and legal and ethical research on problems concerning involuntary psychiatric care.

Principal investigator/contact
Lena Eriksson (PhD), 
Department for Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science, University of Gothenburg.


Moa Kindström-Dahlin (LLD), 
Faculty of Law,
Stockholm University; Department for Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science 
Susanna Radovic (PhD), 
Department for Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science, University of Gothenburg.
Lena Wahlberg (LLD),
Faculty of Law, Lund University.

Page Manager: Stefan Axelsson|Last update: 11/18/2014

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