The New York Times has an article on the recent tragic death of psychiatrist Dr Wayne Fenton, a respected and admired schizophrenia specialist who seems to have been killed by a patient.
The killing has highlighted the debate about violence and schizophrenia once again.
Violence is rare in people with schizophrenia. In fact, people with schizophrenia are much more likely to be victims of violence than violent themselves.
However, active psychosis is associated with a slightly increased chance of violence in some people, and some have argued that this is a reason for forcibly medicating people with schizophrenia if they refuse treatment.
In contrast, others argue that forcibly medicating anyone is an abuse of the person’s civil liberties.
In most jurisdictions, mental illness is the only type of illness is which a patient’s refusal of treatment can be overruled. For any other type of illness, this decision is typically respected and protected by law.
Interestingly, the risk of violence in schizophrenia is comparable to the risk of violence with alcohol use in adolescents.
Nevertheless, the media tends to focus on violence and schizophrenia, giving a skewed idea of the risks and ignoring more common and less newsworthy stories such as ‘drunk youth attacks man’.
Dr Fenton’s killing is a huge loss to the psychiatric community. A tribute published on the Schizophrenia Bulletin website notes his academic and scientific contributions to the understanding of the condition, and former patients have been remembering his compassionate approach to patient care.