, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 829-843
Date: 19 Oct 2012

Is There a Right to Hold a Delusion? Delusions as a Challenge for Human Rights Discussion


The analysis presented in this article reveals an ambiguity and tension in human rights theory concerning the delusional person’s freedom of belief and thought. Firstly, it would appear that the concepts ‘opinion’ and ‘thought’ are defined in human rights discussion in such a way that they do include delusions. Secondly, the internal freedom to hold opinions and thoughts is defined in human rights discussion and international human rights covenants as an absolute human right which should not be restricted in any situation for any reason. These views, if understood literally, imply that a person has an absolute right to hold a delusion. However, this kind of conclusion has not been made in mental health laws, the ethical principles guiding psychiatric care or the practice of psychiatry. Instead, they assume that the use of involuntary antipsychotic medication is justified even thought its purpose is to influence delusions. The ambiguity and tension in human rights theory concerning the freedom of belief and thought challenge us to develop this theory within an interdisciplinary discussion so that people with delusions are taken into account properly.