Healer, Witness, or Double Agent? Reexamining the Ethics of Forensic Psychiatry

Journal of Law & Health, Vol. 29, 2019

26 Pages Posted: 11 Jul 2015 Last revised: 28 Oct 2019

Date Written: July 9, 2015

Abstract

In recent years, psychiatrists have become ever more prevalent in American courtrooms. This trend has sparked a corresponding increase in psychiatric encounters that are initiated for forensic — rather than therapeutic — purposes. Consequently, the issue of when the usual rules of medical ethics should apply to forensic psychiatric encounters has taken on increased importance and is a continuing topic of discussion among both legal and medical scholars. A number of approaches have been proposed, but none of these prior approaches adequately addresses the ethical issues that arise when a forensic encounter develops therapeutic characteristics. This article looks to the rules governing the lawyer-client relationship as a model for a new approach to forensic psychiatric ethics. This new model focuses on the expectations of the evaluee and the ways in which the evaluating psychiatrist shapes those expectations to determine how and when the rules of medical ethics should apply to forensic psychiatric encounters.

Keywords: Bioethics, medical ethics, psychiatry, forensic psychiatry, legal ethics, evidence, law and psychiatry

Suggested Citation

Scherer, Matthew U., Healer, Witness, or Double Agent? Reexamining the Ethics of Forensic Psychiatry (July 9, 2015). Journal of Law & Health, Vol. 29, 2019, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2614668 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2614668

Matthew U. Scherer (Contact Author)

Center for Democracy and Technology ( email )

1634 Eye Street NW, #1100
Washington, DC 20006
United States

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