Realizing legal protection for compulsory care by psychiatrists and nurses

With compulsory mental health care, the psychiatric patient is -temporarily- deprived of control over his own life by applying forced measures. This is very drastic and automatically a violation of (human) rights. It is therefore necessary that legal protection is guaranteed; that goes beyond procedural justice based on legislation and regulations. It also concerns fair actions by healthcare professionals such as psychiatrists and nurses. 


For responsible, compulsory care, the Healthcare and Youth Inspectorate (IGJ) has indicated that attention must be paid to the interests and legal position of individuals. Intervening with coercive measures to prevent serious harm has far-reaching consequences for the person in question, but also the legal consequences that must be overcome. This requires the necessary competencies of first-line professionals for the initial realization of legal protection. The ultimate goal is that psychiatrists and nurses are better able to guarantee (human) rights for people with a mental disorder.

Various interests play a role here: healthcare, safety and law. How do you maintain 'attention to the interests and legal position' of the patient in a state of psychological distress without jeopardizing safety in general or compromising the quality of care?


  • Socio-legal dilemmas in the context of forced measures, such as coercive care, are mapped out. 
  • Legal competences of the first-line professional with regard to the realization of legal protection are explained.  
  • Action perspective is offered to the first-line professional for better client support in coercive care processes.

"More insight into practice, the problems involved, possible practice adjustments and possible variants for additional or alternative arrangements are more than welcome"

Ton-Peter Widdershoven, Senior lawyer at the PVP Foundation


Based on interviews, observations, case studies and a survey, it is reconstructed which competencies (knowledge, ability and willingness) are needed to act carefully in the interests of the patient and to anchor his legal position. Finally, on the basis of action research, systematic work will be done on the design of a good-practice portfolio for realizing legal protection in situations of forced measures.


01 September 2021 - 30 December 2025


Further integration of the resulting knowledge regarding legal protection in the application of coercive measures fits within the existing HU- profile 'Safe Living Environment'. A new minor will also be developed that focuses on Integral Working on the themes Care, Law and Safety. The results of this research are also included in the further development of the ggz-triage training module within the Master's degree in Innovation in Care and Welfare.

Based on action research, systematic work will be done on the design of a good-practice portfolio for the professional field for realizing legal protection in situations of forced measures.

HU researchers involved in the research

Related research groups

Collaboration with knowledge partners

Promotor: Bert Niemeijer (VU University Amsterdam)

Would you like to collaborate or do you have any questions?

Annemarie van de Weert | Researcher | Access to Justice

Annemarie van de Weert

  • Lecturer-researcher
  • Research group: Access to Justice