The insanity defense: asking and answering the ultimate question

Bull Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 1987;15(4):329-38.


The authors address the main questions in the insanity defense debate: Should it be abolished? Should psychiatrists participate as expert witnesses? Is the profession damaged by such testimony? Is there a logical leap between providing psychiatric findings and providing an opinion to the ultimate question? Because the free will/determinism model underlying the current insanity defense positions can be used to argue either side of the debate, it does not supply any rational answers. The authors reframe the discussion, using a systems approach, and suggest answers to these questions that are in line with the clinical realities and on a firmer philosophic ground.

MeSH terms

  • Expert Testimony
  • Forensic Psychiatry*
  • Humans
  • Insanity Defense*
  • Psychiatry
  • Social Control, Formal
  • Social Justice
  • United States
  • Volition