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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 94385 Find in a Library
Title: Beyond Psychiatric Expertise
Author(s): B Burstein
Date Published: 1984
Page Count: 271
Sponsoring Agency: Charles C. Thomas
Springfield, IL 62704
Publication Number: 1063
Sale Source: Charles C. Thomas
2600 South First Street
Springfield, IL 62704
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This book examines the scope of the Durham standard, which assesses criminal responsibility for behavior by whether or not that behavior is the product of mental illness, explains why the application of this standard is so difficult, describes the standard's role in regulating society, and explores the variety of settings in which decisions on the 'product of mental illness' are crucial.
Abstract: To apply the Durham standard -- product of mental illness -- to any decision about human behavior, mental illness must first be defined and recognized. Six criteria of illness are indicated: (1) a cluster of characteristics which is (2) undesirable, (3) natural and rationally explainable, (4) predominately biological, (5) individual rather than social, and (6) beyond the individual's control or choice. It is concluded that in many evaluations of behavior, evaluators will reach differing conclusions about whether the above criteria are met. In such situations, it is argued that conclusions on the meeting of the criteria rest on opinion and policy rather than expertise or facts. The complexity of applying the Durham standard is further developed in a discussion of the difficulty of deciding whether particular behaviors by persons whom experts agree are mentally ill are the products of the mental illness. The issues considered are whether action can be caused by ideas, whether a person can be partly mentally ill and partly well, how the specific behavior between the sick and healthy parts of a person can be allocated, and how a psychiatrist can distinguish between behavior that is a direct product of illness and that which is a reaction to the illness. Acknowledging that decisions about societal reactions to various behaviors must be formalized, a framework for understanding how 'product of mental illness' is used and how it might be applied is presented. This framework is then applied to decisions pertaining to criminal responsibility, commitment to mental hospitals, a patient's desire to refuse treatment, guardianship of the elderly, the nullificaiton of contracts due to 'unsound mind,' requests for employment leaves of absence because of mental illness, and disability and personal injury judgments. The central theme of the book is that psychiatrists are no more qualified than many other professions to make decisions about the 'products of mental illness,' since it is a policy rather than a scientific decision. About 180 references are listed.
Index Term(s): Civil commitment; Competency to stand trial; Criminal responsibility; Discretionary decisions; Forensic psychiatry; Insanity defense; Mentally ill offenders; Psychological evaluation
Note: American Lecture Series, Monograph in American lectures in behavioral Science and law.
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