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March 1956

SOME OBSERVATIONS ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PSYCHIATRY AND THE LAW

Author Affiliations

Chicago

From the Department of Psychiatry, U. S. Naval Hospital, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md.

AMA Arch NeurPsych. 1956;75(3):297-315. doi:10.1001/archneurpsyc.1956.02330210077008
Abstract

On the assumption that mental states and impulses of a certain kind are caused only by "disease" or "sin," two equally vague conceptions in this context, doctors are asked to discriminate nicely between the two, and they naturally tend to flounder badly in the process. The underlying theory appears to be that the law permits some modes of conduct to be caused—e. g., by disease—but not others. The latter are said to be the product of free will, which is omnipotent enough to create the first link in a chain of thought or conduct. By accepting a particularly arbitrary distinction between mental health and disease, doctors pass beyond the facts of their own science, and by accepting the legal view of free will they abandon the only fundamental canon of all science.

Ernest Jones 34

INTRODUCTION  In these troubled times, many psychiatrists, lawyers, and intelligent lay persons share an intense

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