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August 17, 1964

Insanity and the Psychiatrist in Court

JAMA. 1964;189(7):587. doi:10.1001/jama.1964.03070070059024

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To the Editor:—  Dr. Koontz (Letters, JAMA188:1090 [June 22] 1964) should get the facts straight before criticizing psychiatrists who testify regarding pleas of not guilty by reason of insanity.The conditions for legal insanity are written into the law by legislators, the elected representatives of the populace, not by psychiatrists. Would Dr. Koontz have psychiatrists blithely disregard these laws when they are attempting to examine such a defendant?Psychiatrists testifying in such a proceeding do not declare the accused insane and release him. They testify as to their medical opinion, and it is the court and our system of laws which decide the outcome of the hearing.Contrary to the implications of the letter, psychiatrists testifying in such hearings do so with the same sense of medical ethics and responsibilities as other physicians. Charlatans are no more common among psychiatrists than in medicine in general.Psychiatrists, too, are

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