This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
Handbook of Forensic Psychiatric Practice in Capital Cases


Medical involvement in capital cases


Some have argued that clinicians who undertake assessment in capital cases need to demonstrate a higher standard of professional practice than those engaged in general forensic psychiatric work. Clearly, psychiatrists carrying out such work need to be experienced not only in clinical forensic practice, but also in preparing medico-legal reports. Tere is substantial ‘expertise in being a medico- legal expert’ which goes beyond being a good clinician. Indeed, in the UK, where there is no death penalty, the General Medical Council reprimanded an experienced consultant in general psychiatry for undertaking a murder report, and doing it poorly, when he had never done such a report before. And in jurisdictions retaining the death penalty the stakes are far higher, given that there is no ability to set error right at a later stage. Experts undertaking such work also need to be able to work in potentially very difficult environments. And assessments conducted in capital cases can provoke anxieties in clinicians; much is potentially at stake and those involved need to be accepting of, and comfortable in, the knowledge that one potential outcome of their assessment includes the execution of the defendant.


Even clinicians who are experienced in other areas of forensic psychiatry are likely to be unfamiliar with the case law relating to capital cases. So advice on relevant law, including legal tests, should be sought and fully understood, if not already known to the doctor. Also, if they have never worked in a country which retains the death penalty, and/or in a less developed country where services are limited, then this will add a further element of lack of experience.


Perhaps the greatest challenge, both technically and ethically, arises from the fact that the future risk of violence is likely to be an important consideration in sentencing in almost all jurisdictions which maintain the death penalty on a discretionary basis. (See Chapter 7)


After an assessment is concluded, it can often be valuable to discuss the findings with an experienced colleague in an anonymised way. Tis allows the opportunity for reflection from a position of some distance, and for tentative conclusions to be challenged and, if necessary, revised. Tis advice is particularly relevant to a doctor who has little experience of assessment of defendants in capital cases, but no doctor should be too proud to seek discussion with a colleague.


34


Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74  |  Page 75  |  Page 76  |  Page 77  |  Page 78  |  Page 79  |  Page 80  |  Page 81  |  Page 82  |  Page 83  |  Page 84  |  Page 85  |  Page 86  |  Page 87  |  Page 88  |  Page 89  |  Page 90  |  Page 91  |  Page 92  |  Page 93  |  Page 94  |  Page 95  |  Page 96  |  Page 97  |  Page 98  |  Page 99  |  Page 100  |  Page 101  |  Page 102  |  Page 103  |  Page 104  |  Page 105  |  Page 106  |  Page 107  |  Page 108  |  Page 109  |  Page 110  |  Page 111  |  Page 112  |  Page 113  |  Page 114  |  Page 115  |  Page 116  |  Page 117  |  Page 118  |  Page 119  |  Page 120  |  Page 121  |  Page 122  |  Page 123  |  Page 124  |  Page 125  |  Page 126  |  Page 127  |  Page 128  |  Page 129  |  Page 130  |  Page 131  |  Page 132  |  Page 133  |  Page 134  |  Page 135  |  Page 136  |  Page 137  |  Page 138  |  Page 139  |  Page 140  |  Page 141  |  Page 142  |  Page 143  |  Page 144  |  Page 145  |  Page 146  |  Page 147  |  Page 148  |  Page 149  |  Page 150  |  Page 151  |  Page 152  |  Page 153  |  Page 154  |  Page 155  |  Page 156