Though community treatment orders (CTOs) were first used in 1986 in Australia, debate about their clinical and ethical merits continues even today. For some, the benefits of reduced frequency and duration of involuntary hospitalizations are believed to adequately outweigh the harms of restricted liberties in community living. For others, however, such benefits are believed to be achievable by simply arranging integrated, devoted community resources sans any threat of forced re-hospitalization. In response to this enduring controversy, this article examines the ethical merits of community orders using a novel approach. "Novel" because the examination is based on research ethics and its foundational principles. When hospital and community clinicians, family members, consumer/survivors, and advocacy groups discussed the idea of amending Ontario's mental health legislation to permit CTOs in the late 1990s, evidence of their effects and efficacy was very limited. Moreover, an order was characterized much like standard pharmacological or medical therapies because the person or an appropriate substitute decision maker's consent was necessary to authorize the order or make it valid. These two factors prompted this retrospective analysis: if CTOs--as a public policy initiative--had been treated like most other promising therapies, would any different ethics-related concerns have been raised that, in turn, would have benefited the public debate and the legislature's decisions? In other words, if respected safeguards that apply to new drugs and medical devices had applied to CTOs, would anything have changed?