Book review: Advance Directives in Mental Health

Advance Directives in Mental Health: Theory, Practice and Ethics

Jacqueline M Atkinson,

Jessica Kingsley Publishers

ISBN 978 1 84310 4834

This publication examines the background and implementation of advance directives. Like living wills in healthcare, they allow service users to plan for the future. They enable people to decide what mental health treatments they would wish to receive, or not wish to receive, in the event of them becoming unwell and incapable of making those decisions.

Atkinson, a professor of mental health policy at the University of Glasgow, has written an accessible guide that considers the legal, ethical and medical issues surrounding treatment in the event of future episodes of mental illness. Her book is intended as a comprehensive reference and differentiates between the different types of directives in use in other countries, including advance statements and advance agreements.

Readers in the UK may find too much emphasis on the different legal frameworks adopted in Australia, Canada and the US. In this respect, perhaps the text meets the needs of the publisher’s international customer base rather than the more specific needs of UK-based practitioners.

Researchers and policy makers will be drawn to sections on ideological issues, whereas the more practical arrangements in the final section will appeal to service users and mental health professionals.

In producing this text, Atkinson has achieved the commonly tricky task of accommodating both academics and practitioners.

Mark Drinkwater is a community worker in Southwark, south London

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