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August 7, 1967

The Physician and the Law: Determination of Mental Competency to Stand Trial

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Forensic Psychiatry, Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans.

JAMA. 1967;201(6):343-346. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03130060017005

Physicians and members of the legal profession who participate in lunacy or sanity hearings to determine a defendant's mental competency to stand trial can unwittingly interfere with due process of law. Four case histories illustrate situations in which this can occur. Failure to recognize the continuous but separated stages of criminal procedure (pretrial, trial, and post-trial) and attempts to resolve trial and post-trial issues at the pretrial stage are perhaps the most common reasons why some inequities do occur. More mutual involvement, interaction, and cross-education between the professions of medicine and law are needed to arrive at solutions to existing problems in these areas.