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July 29, 1968

Mental Illness, Due Process and the Criminal Defendant

JAMA. 1968;205(5):315. doi:10.1001/jama.1968.03140310073030

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


The problems discussed here make this an important book. Explicitly, the authors recommend changes in New York state law dealing with reputedly mentally ill persons who have been indicted or convicted or sentenced because of alleged criminal behavior. Implicitly, this document indicts the unbelievably antiquated, inequitable, and often senseless statutes which deal with such problems in all our states.

This substantial task is undertaken by "The Special Committee on the Study of Commitment Procedures and the Law Relating to Incompetents" of the New York city bar, together with Fordham Law School. The perspective and terminology are primarily those of the legal profession, but physicians should not be deterred from reading the book. We in medicine bear the primary responsibility for commitment of patients into mental hospitals, and sometimes this amounts to virtual imprisonment without due process. This, often true in civil commitments, may reach tragic proportions with real or alleged