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March 1974

Ineffective Military Personnel: II. An Ethical Dilemma for Psychiatry

Author Affiliations

Boston; Washington, DC

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1974;30(3):406-410. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1974.01760090110017

Utilization of the military psychiatrist as an agent of social control is seen as a critical factor underlying the dramatic rise in the number of servicemen discharged for character and behavior disorders.

Statistics illustrating the magnitude of this special type of nonmedical, psychiatric discharge are accompanied by an explanation of the organizational dynamics that influence the diagnostic process. The consequences for the patient of this administrative separation are summarized, and the appropriateness of a psychiatrist acting as both "expert witness" and "judge" is questioned.

We present detailed recommendations for military psychiatrists who seek to maintain their professional integrity and to practice effective preventive psychiatry for the military community. The military psychiatrist is identified as the man most able, because of his knowledge and his influential position in the military structure, to implement substantial improvements at the installation level in character and behavior discharge procedures, even in the absence of needed structural reform.

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