A Qualitative Study of Clinicians’ Perspectives on Independent Rights Advice for Involuntary Psychiatric Patients in British Columbia, Canada

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Graduate student (PhD)
Final version published as: 

Cheung, I. W., Silva, D. S., Miller, K. J., Michalak, E. E., & Goldsmith, C. H. (2021). A qualitative study of clinicians’ perspectives on independent rights advice for involuntary psychiatric patients in British Columbia, Canada. PLOS ONE, 16(3), e0247268. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0247268.

Date created: 
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0247268


In British Columbia (BC), Canada, clinicians are responsible for giving involuntary psychiatric patients rights information upon admission. Yet an investigation by the BC Office of the Ombudsperson found that clinicians are not always fulfilling this responsibility. The Ombudsperson recommended that the provincial government fund an independent body to give rights advice to patients.


To understand how clinicians feel about this recommendation, focus groups of clinicians who may give psychiatric patients rights information (n = 81) were conducted in Vancouver, BC, to probe their attitudes toward independent rights advisors. The focus group transcripts were thematically analyzed.


Most clinicians believe that giving rights information is within their scope of practice, although some acknowledge that it poses a conflict of interest when the patient wishes to challenge the treatment team’s decisions. Participants’ chief concerns about an independent rights-advice service were that (a) patients may experience a delay in receiving their rights information, (b) integrating rights advisors into the workflow would complicate an already chaotic admission process, and (c) more patients would be counselled to challenge their hospitalization, leading to an increased administrative workload for clinical staff. However, many participants believed that independent rights advisors would be a positive addition to the admission process, both allowing clinicians to focus on treatment and serving as a source of rights-related information.


Participants were generally amenable to an independent rights-advice service, suggesting that the introduction of rights advisors need not result in an adversarial relationship between treatment team and patient, as opponents of the proposal fear. Clearly distinguishing between basic rights information and in-depth rights advice could address several of the clinicians’ concerns about the role that independent rights advisors would play in the involuntary admission process. Clinicians’ and other stakeholders’ concerns should be considered as the province develops its rights-advice service.

Document type: 
Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)