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August 14, 1954

The Psychiatrist and the Law.

JAMA. 1954;155(16):1456. doi:10.1001/jama.1954.03690340078030

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These four lectures were delivered at Harvard in 1952. They were addressed to members of various professions and so are not overburdened with detail. The first lecture deals with psychoanalysis; the second protests the insensibility of courts to modern psychiatry; the third describes how patients are committed; and the fourth discusses expert testimony. The author stresses these opinions: criminal law ought to be revised to take account of disordered minds, civil law should allow for more psychiatric advice, and the courts must guard the dignity of expert witnesses.

Our criminal law uses the rules in the case of M'Naghton that were announced under Victorian pressure but not meant as precedent. By them many deranged persons have been unjustly condemned. These rules, however, are not the only problem. In the world of Freud we all move with brutish intent, and the actual criminal is distinguished not by his evil will but

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