OBJECTIVES: In view of the fact that there is a higher mortality rate for individuals with serious mental illness and that people with mental illness suffer excess mortality due to physical illness, the lack of attention to end-of-life care for patients with a serious mental illness needs addressing. This article seeks to put these issues on the agenda by beginning to explore important ethical-legal issues at the interface of palliative care and institutional mental health. METHODS: Data were collected from eight qualitative interviews conducted with mental health professionals at The Park, Centre for Mental Health, Queensland. The interviews were recorded verbatim, coded and thematically analysed. RESULTS: The findings highlight the inherent tension at the interface of compassionate, patient-centred end-of-life care and the participants' perception of the legal restraints imposed by virtue of being in a mental health institution. This article examines the participants' perceptions of the legal restraints curtailing the provision of palliative care in a mental health institution and considers these findings within an understanding of the limitations imposed by law. Our hope and expectation in undertaking this exploration is to clarify the legal limitations that operate to restrict the type of end-of-life care that can be offered to mental health patients, in order to provide an informed basis for practice.