Engaging the Controversies

Video: Hastings researchers Erik Parens and Josephine Johnston introduce their report on children and psychiatry

More and more children in the United States receive psychiatric diagnoses and psychotropic medications—this is not news. With those increased rates of diagnosis and pharmacological treatment come sometimes intense debates about whether those increases are appropriate, or whether healthy children are being mislabeled as sick and inappropriately given medications to alter their moods and behaviors.

  • Why have the numbers of children diagnosed and treated increased, and what does this increase mean?
  • Are children being overmedicated?
  • Are sick children getting the care they need?

To better understand theses controversies, The Hastings Center, an independent bioethics research institution, with a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, conducted a series of five workshops over the course of three years that brought together clinicians, researchers, scholars, and advocates from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds with widely diverse views. In this report, we will describe many of the complexities, paying close attention to the ineradicable role that value commitments play not only in decisions about the appropriate modes of treatment, but also in diagnosis.