The authors focus on the issue of involuntary psychiatric hospitalization as a possible measure for preventing a patient from harming himself or others. The possibility that a mental disorder could induce people with mental illness to have violent behavior is still debated in Italy, and patients’ dangerousness is not a criterion for involuntary hospitalization. Nonetheless in several other member states of the European Union and in the USA, involuntary commitment is an acknowledged procedure to prevent this risk. Implications of the Italian jurisprudence for evaluating the psychiatrists’ alleged malpractice will be discussed, including the practical implications of psychiatrists’ duty of care.
The authors will first survey the legal framework of involuntary psychiatric hospitalization also providing examples of regulations. A critical discussion of data of recent research on involuntary psychiatric hospitalization will follow, underlining possible interactions and conflicts between concepts such as mental capacity, duty of care, professional liability, and patients’ dangerousness.
Although the Italian regulation for civil commitment does not include danger to self or others, nor mental capacity evaluation criteria, the clinical practice and the jurisprudence advocate their consideration.