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Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2006 Sep;29(3):791-804.

Psychiatry and the death penalty.

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  • 1University of California, Davis Medical Center, 2230 Stockton Boulevard, 2nd Floor, Sacramento, CA 95817, USA.


Psychiatrists conducting forensic evaluations of defendants facing a potential death penalty must understand the legal and ethical parameters governing these assessments in addition to the important clinical issues. Important areas to review with each defendant include the role of the evaluator, the party requesting the evaluation, circumstances in which the evaluation is not confidential, the nature, scope, and purpose of the evaluation, and the parties to whom the results of the evaluation are to be forwarded. In those circumstances in which the defense attorney has not retained the psychiatrist, the defendant's attorney must be aware that an evaluation has been ordered by the court or requested by the prosecution. The psychiatrist also must be prepared for passionate challenges to their findings from the defense or prosecution and in some instances for vigorous attacks on their own personal ethics. To weather such storms, the mental health evaluator must base their opinion on objective evidence rather than letting any personal bias guide their assessment.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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