Taking the Role of the Family Seriously in Treating Chinese Psychiatric Patients : A Confucian Familist Review of China's First Mental Health Act

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

13 Scopus Citations
View graph of relations



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)387-399
Journal / PublicationJournal of Medicine and Philosophy
Issue number4
Online published6 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015


This essay argues that the Chinese Mental Health Act of 2013 is overly individualistic and fails to give proper moral weight to the role of Chinese families in directing the process of decision-making for hospitalizing and treating the mentally ill patients. We present three types of reactions within the medical community to the Act, each illustrated with a case and discussion. In the first two types of cases, we argue that these reactions are problematic either because they comply with the law but undermine the patient's interests by refusing the family's request to have the patient hospitalized, or violate the law by hospitalizing patients in response to the real concerns of their families. In the third type of situation, psychiatrists inappropriately encourage families to produce evidence of the patient's behavior that is harmful to self or others in order legally to commit the patient. Each of these problems, we conclude, should be tackled by supplementing Article 30 of the Act with the stipulation that a psychiatrist may authorize the involuntary hospitalization of a patient, who is not at risk of causing physical harm to self or others, with the consent of all major family members. Drawing on the deeply culturally embedded moral traditions of Confucian medical familism, this proposal would facilitate the proper treatment of a significant number of Chinese mentally ill patients under the care of their families.

Research Area(s)

  • Confucianism, familism, involuntary hospitalization, mentally ill patients, psychiatric ethics

Citation Format(s)