The revolution in forensic ethics: narrative, compassion, and a robust professionalism

Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2009 Jun;32(2):423-35. doi: 10.1016/j.psc.2009.02.005.


For 5 decades modern forensic psychiatry has struggled with the seminal question of which master it serves: is it a field that answers chiefly to the law or to psychiatry? It is the law, after all, that privileges forensic experts in the courtroom, but it is psychiatry that grounds them in the medical ethics of care and cure. In reviewing the historical narrative of modern forensic ethics, this article explores whether the field has developed to the point that it is insufficient to apply legal or medical ethics alone. Rather, a more robust professionalism of broader perspectives, mixed theories, and basic ethical habits and skills may foster better understanding of the complex intersection of psychiatry and the law.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cultural Competency / ethics
  • Empathy
  • Forensic Psychiatry / ethics*
  • Forensic Psychiatry / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations / ethics
  • Prisoners
  • Professional Role*