The medical psychiatrist as physician for the chronically mentally ill.
Schwartz CE. Steinmuller RI. Dubler N.
Department of Consultation/Liaison Psychiatry, North Central Bronx Hospital, New York, USA.
A 60-year-old black female with chronic paranoid schizophrenia was admitted to the Medical Service for a workup because of severe iron deficiency anemia; she refused the workup. She was found to be acutely psychotic and incapable of informed medical decision making. The management of her medical workup by her medical/C-L psychiatrist led to a diagnosis of colon cancer, and subsequent surgery. The case is discussed here by a consultation-liaison psychiatrist and a lawyer bioethicist. It illustrates the role of medical/C-L psychiatrists as physicians for chronically mentally ill patients with serious medical illness in the general hospital, who guide the medical/surgical care of these patients without powerful negative countertransference bias, thus balancing respect for patient autonomy with advocacy for medical "best interests."