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July 13, 1984

Psychiatric testimony: what are its limits?

JAMA. 1984;252(2):186-187. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03350020002002

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Although elder statesman Karl Menninger, MD, has long held that "we psychiatrists don't belong in the courtroom... it is not our proper sphere of action," many members of the specialty seem to be spending a good deal of time in that venue.

According to speakers at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) meeting in Anaheim, Calif, this situation has led several thoughtful psychiatrists to ponder how they should practice their specialty in the legal setting to best serve both the accused and the accusing segments of society.

The subjects addressed by two psychiatrists who spoke on "Ethical Issues in Forensic Psychiatry" at the AAFS meeting illustrate some important current concerns.

Arthur F. Sullwold, MD, assistant professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Florida College of Medicine,

Gainesville, formulated with Gerald T. Bennett, JD, professor of law at the University of Florida's Holland Law Center, some views on "qualifying the psychiatrist