The responsibility the health service owes to relatives who care for mentally ill patients is gradually being acknowledged. The Griffiths Report (1988) makes explicit both that families should care for their ill members and that the health service has a duty to provide some support. The new support for the family is more to enable them to be ‘better carers’ and to cope with the burdens of caring. One area of psychiatry where this support is a growth area is for relatives of people with schizophrenia. Research points to both the impact of some families on the career of the patient, including relapse rates, and the ways in which such negative impact can be reduced (Leff et al, 1989). This paper is concerned with the ethical issues involved in offering a service to relatives. The ethical dilemma of access to relatives is intimately related to the person at whom outcome is aimed.
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