Key to WPA’s mission and work is ensuring the ethical treatment and care of those people around the world suffering from mental ill health – and thus, the ethical behaviour of those providing treatment. Although there may be cultural, social and national differences, the need for ethical conduct and continual review of ethical standards is universal.
As practitioners of medicine, psychiatrists must be aware of the ethical implications of being a physician, and of the specific ethical demands of the specialty of psychiatry. As members of society, psychiatrists must advocate for fair and equal treatment of the mentally ill, for social justice and equity for all.
In this spirit, the WPA has developed ethical guidelines for psychiatric practice (such as the WPA Code of Ethics) and position statements on topics relevant to psychiatric practice and the role of psychiatrists.
Position Statements & Technical Documents (incl. Guidelines)
The WPA produces three types of documents:
Technical documents - produced by WPA Sections, Task-forces, WPA or other working groups or by individuals
Position statements - prepared by the WPA Executive Committee. These usually present the views of the WPA on public health and social matters relevant to mental health, as well as the functioning of the WPA.
Policy statements - such as the Code of Conduct for WPA Officers.
See WPA's current Position Statements here
See WPA's Other Declarations here
See WPA's Telepsychiatry Guidelines here
See WPA's report of the joint WPA/CINP workgroup on the use and usefulness of antipsychotic medication in the treatment of schizophrenia here.
WPA Code of Ethics for Psychiatry
The WPA Code of Ethics for Psychiatry was approved at the 2020 Virtual General Assembly.
The Code was in development for some nine years and is the first global code of its kind. It is a universal Code of Ethics that crosses all cultures and nationalities. The wording in the Code as related to abuses of psychiatry is the strongest yet and is very much reflective of the time we live in – ethics, transparency and accountability are key.
A draft of the Code of Ethics for Psychiatry was presented to the General Assembly, Berlin in 2017. It had previously been circulated to all Member Societies for comment. Further comments were raised at the General Assembly mainly concerning the applicability of the new Code to those Member Societies who already had their own Code of Practice.
The General Assembly agreed that the Code should be referred back to the Executive Committee and then sent to the WPA Standing Committee for Ethics and Review for further consideration. The General Assembly also requested that the Planning Committee consider references to the Code in the Statutes and By-Laws.
The Standing Committee of Ethics and Review revised the Code to take into account the comments made at the General Assembly in 2017. These revisions were approved by the Executive Committee and the revised Code was circulated to all Member Societies for further review in 2019.
One further comment was received, following this review, from a Member Society suggesting that the principles in the Code should be highlighted. The Introduction to the Code should clarify that Member Societies are asked to endorse these principles and attest that their own codes are not in conflict with these principles and that the codes of national societies are binding on their members. The Code was revised accordingly and approved by the Executive Committee in September 2019.
The WPA Planning Committee revised references to the Code of Ethics in the Statutes and By-Laws and these amendments as approved by the Executive Committee were presented to the 2020 General Assembly.
See the Code HERE
Historical Ethical Declarations
The Declaration of Hawaii issued by the World Psychiatric Association in 1977 and updated in 1983 in Vienna was initiated because of political abuse of psychiatry in some countries in the seventies. This led to a long process of investigation and concern within the domain of professional ethics and paved the way for the Declaration of Madrid, which was endorsed by the General Assembly of the World Psychiatric Association in Madrid in 1996.
In its final form, the Declaration of Madrid includes seven general guidelines that focus on the aims of psychiatry namely to treat mentally ill patients, prevent mental illness, promote mental health and provide care and rehabilitation for mentally ill patients.
The Declaration of Madrid has now been superseded by the 2020 WPA Code of Ethics.
Click here to see the Declaration of Madrid
Click here for other related historical documents