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J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2005;33(3):386-9.

Commentary: compassion at the core of forensic ethics.

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CMHC, Law and Psychiatry Division, 34 Park Street, New Haven, CT 06519, USA.


In 1982, Dr. Alan Stone raised a central dilemma in ethics for forensic psychiatry that has prompted significant and important discussion of the concerns about twisting justice, prostituting the profession, and operating without adequate ethics guidelines in the course of our work. In presidential addresses to the membership of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law (AAPL), Dr. Paul Appelbaum and Dr. Ezra Griffith have attempted to deal with Stone's challenges, the former by providing a theory of forensic ethics, the latter by advocating cultural formulation and narrative as the methodology of our work. In his present contribution, Dr. Griffith advances the idea of narrative to involve compassion for the subject of the evaluation. In so doing, he brings us to a far more satisfactory resolution of the dilemma described by Dr. Stone. The obligation to show compassion deserves to be at the core of any valuable statement of forensic ethics. The role of compassion in justice, as discussed, for example, by Simone Weil, warrants further interdisciplinary study.

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