Psychiatrists and the Adversary Process

  • David L. Bazelon


In our society part of the task of scrutinizing the decisional process involving experts in a great many disciplines has fallen to the judiciary. With public issues increasingly conditioned by scientific discovery and technological change, courts often confront technical questions with legal and moral implications for society. As a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for the past 25 years, I have been exposed to almost every sensitive scientific and medical question that has legal, moral, and ethical implications for our society. Arguments before our court, where the Federal Government is often a party, have ranged over the spectrum from abortion and blood transfusions to the underground-nuclear-explosion experiment in the Aleutian Islands and the safety of nuclear reactors. It is my duty to approach these questions not as a surgeon, a physicist, an ecologist, or any other technical expert does but as one charged with monitoring the decisional process. In scrutinizing the decision-making process of experts I have seen our familiar judicial procedures attempt to bring the most arcane sciences and technologies under public surveillance.


Moral Responsibility Personality Disorder Criminal Responsibility Expert Testimony Aleutian Island 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1976

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  • David L. Bazelon

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