Forensic Psychiatric Testimony: Ethical Issues

  • John Douard
  • Pamela D. Schultz
Part of the International Library of Ethics, Law, and the New Medicine book series (LIME, volume 53)


In order to live well together, we must have reasonable expectations about the conduct of others. Those expectations are grounded on proprieties of practice, adherence to which requires us to have moral and emotional capacities that enable responsiveness to others’ rights and needs. Capacities such as empathy, a sense of justice, care and concern, prudence, an interest in making and keeping promises, and, more generally, dispositions that connect us to others can prevent social anomie. Even the visceral capacity to feel disgust at scenes of brutality and suffering is essential to our sense of community. People who lack these capacities frighten us, and for good reasons: they are unpredictable, strange, threatening (Miller 1998). People who are labeled psychopathic, as described in the last chapter, generally present us with a difficult choice: to exclude them from our community or to render their threatening character harmless.


Antisocial Personality Disorder Expert Testimony Moral Panic Moral Luck Forensic Psychiatry 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Ethical Guidelines for the Practice of Forensic Psychiatry. 2005. Found at
  2. American Psychiatric Association. 2000. Diagnostic and statistical manual, 4th ed. Text revision (DSM-IV-TR).Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, E. 2010. Dewey’s moral philosophy. Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy.
  4. Appelbaum, P.S. 1998. Ethics in evolution: The incompatibility of clinical and forensic functions (editorial). The American Journal of Psychiatry 154: 445–446.Google Scholar
  5. Appelbaum, P.S. 2008. Ethics and forensic psychiatry: Translating principles into practice. The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 36(2): 195–200.Google Scholar
  6. Boyd, B. 2010. On the origin of stories: Evolution, cognition, and fiction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Candilis, P.J., R. Weinstock, and R. Martinez. 2007. Forensic ethics and the expert witness. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  8. Caplan, P.J. 1995. They say you’re crazy: How the world’s most powerful psychiatrists decide who’s normal. Reading: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  9. Caplan, P. 2011. Psychiatric diagnosis: Too little science, too many conflicts of interest. Available at
  10. Cleckley, H.M. 1941, 1988. The mask of sanity: An attempt to clarify some issues about the so called psychopathic personality. 5th ed. Emily S. Cleckley, Publisher.
  11. Daston, L., and P. Galison. 2007. Objectivity. New York: Zone Books.Google Scholar
  12. Dewey, J. 1930, 1981. Three independent factors in morals. In The later works, vol. 5, ed. J.A. Boydston. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Doris, J. 2002. Lack of character: Personality & moral behavior. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Geertz, Clifford. 1973. Thick description: Toward an interpretive theory of culture. In The interpretation of cultures: Selected essays, 3–30. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  15. Griffith, E.E.H. 2005. Personal narrative and an African-American perspective. Journal of the American Academy and the Law 26: 171–184.Google Scholar
  16. Gross, S.R. 1991. Expert evidence. Wisconsin Law Review: 11131232.Google Scholar
  17. Hacking, I. 2002. Making up people. In Historical ontology. Cambridge, MA: The Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Hand, L. 1901. Historical and practical considerations regarding expert testimony. Harvard Law Review 15: 54–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hanson, R.K., and D. Thornton. 2000. Improving risk assessments for sex offenders: A comparison of three actuarial scales. Law and Human Behavior 24: 119–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hare, R. 1993, 1999. Without conscience: The disturbing world of the psychopaths among us. New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  21. Hempel, C.G., and P. Oppenheim. 1948. Studies in the logic of explanation. Philosophy of Science 15(2): 135–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Horowitz, A.V., and J.C. Wakefield. 2007. The loss of sadness: How psychiatry transformed normal sorrow into depressive disorder. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Kennedy, J. 2000. Monstrous offenders and the search for solidarity through modern punishment. Hastings Law Journal 51: 829.Google Scholar
  24. Kuhn, T. 1970. The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  25. Kutchins, K., and S.A. Kirk. 1997. Making us crazy: DSM – The psychiatric bible and the creation of mental disorders. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  26. Liptak, A. 2008. In U.S., expert witnesses are partisan. New York Times, August 12.Google Scholar
  27. Luban, D. 1988. Lawyers and justice: An ethical study. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Masson, J. 1984. The assault on truth: Freud’s suppression of the seduction theory. New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux.Google Scholar
  29. Miller, W.I. 1998. The anatomy of disgust. Cambridge, MA: The Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Mnookin J.L. 2008. Of black boxes, instruments, and experts: Testing the validity of forensic science. Episteme 5(3): 343–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Murphy, D. 2006. Psychiatry in the scientific image. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  32. Nagel, T. 1979. Moral luck. In Mortal questions, 24–38. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Popper, K. 1959, 2002. The logic of scientific discovery, 2nd ed. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  34. Prentky, R., E. Janus, H. Barbaree, B. Schwartz, and M.P. Kafka. 2006. Sexually violent predators in the courtroom. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law 12(4): 357–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rawls, J. 1971. A theory of justice, 85–86. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Sadler, J.Z., and G.J. Agich. 1995. Diseases, functions, values, and psychiatric classification (with commentary by Jerome C. Wakefield). Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 2(3): 219–246.Google Scholar
  37. Science, Technology, and Law Panel, National Research Council. 2002. The age of expert testimony: Science in the courtroom, Report of a Workshop. Available at
  38. Spitzer, R.L. 1975. On pseudoscience in science, logic in remission, and psychiatric diagnosis: A critique of Rosenhan’s “On Being Sane in Insane Places”. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 84(5): 442–452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Stone, A.A. 1984. The ethics of forensic psychiatry: A view from the ivory tower. In Law, psychiatry and morality, 5–18. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.Google Scholar
  40. Stone, A.A., and D. MacCourt. 2008. Ethics in forensic psychiatry: Re-imagining the wasteland after 25 years. The Journal of Psychiatry and Law 36(Winter): 617–643.Google Scholar
  41. Swanepoel, M. 2009. The development of the interface between law, medicine and psychiatry: Medico-legal perspectives in history. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal 12(4): 124–170.Google Scholar
  42. Wakefield, J.C. 1988a. Psychotherapy, distributive justice, and social work, part 1. Distributive justice as a conceptual framework for social work. The Social Service Review 62(2): 187–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wakefield, J.C. 1988b. Psychotherapy, distributive justice, and social work. Part 2: Psychotherapy and distributive justice. The Social Service Review 62(3): 353–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wakefield, J.C. 1992. The concept of mental disorder: On the boundary between biological facts and social values. The American Psychologist 47: 373–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Weinstock, R., G.B. Leong, and J.A. Silva. 1990. The role of traditional medical ethics in forensic psychiatry. In Ethical practice in psychiatry and the law, ed. R. Rosner and R. Weinstock, 31–51. New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  46. Williams, B. 1982. Moral luck. In Moral luck, 20–39. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Winnick, B.J. 2007. Civil commitment. In Encyclopedia of psychology and law, ed. B.L. Cutler, 89–92. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Douard
    • 1
  • Pamela D. Schultz
    • 2
  1. 1.New BrunswickUSA
  2. 2.AlfredUSA

Personalised recommendations