Assessment of competency for execution? A guide for mental health professionals

Bull Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 1988;16(3):205-16.


Assessment of competency for execution presents two compelling ethical questions for mental health professionals: whether clinicians can ethically provide such assessment, and if so, how it should be done in order to maximize quality and minimize ethical conflict. In this article we address the issue of whether to participate and, if so, how. The question of whether to participate is discussed by summarizing the arguments for and against participation and offering guidelines for making a decision. The question of how to proceed is discussed in two contexts: preadjudication (before a formal decision about competency) and postadjudication (following a determination of "incompetent" and transfer of the offender to another facility for treatment and further assessment). Finally, recommendations are made regarding research that would improve the quality of execution competency assessments.

MeSH terms

  • Capital Punishment* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Humans
  • Law Enforcement*
  • Mentally Ill Persons
  • Psychopathology