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Zeligs, M.A. (1970). Psychiatry in Legal Practice: Watson, Andrew S., M. D.: Psychiatry for Lawyers. New York: International Universities Press, 1969, 326 pp.. Am. Imago, 27(2):189-191.

(1970). American Imago, 27(2):189-191

Psychiatry in Legal Practice: Watson, Andrew S., M. D.: Psychiatry for Lawyers. New York: International Universities Press, 1969, 326 pp.

Review by:
Meyer A. Zeligs, M.D.

“Does the present state of knowledge in psychiatry justify its use in the law?”

Dr. Watson, Professor of Psychiatry and Law at the University of Michigan, answers this question affirmatively. The author should, at the outset, be commended for venturing into this difficult terrain, an area which most colleagues carefully avoid. Well known psychiatrists have found themselves caught up, even maligned and their clinical revelations nullified during the course of giving expert testimony in the courtroom; and books on psychiatry and law have drawn similar fire, for example, in a recently published work Our Criminal Society by Edmund Schur. The author, both a lawyer and a sociologist, is a specialist in criminology. His book, in the opinion of one of his reviewers, a professor of law, was weakened by the fact that “… his [Schur's] principal bugbear is his psychiatric orientation,” a bugbear which the reviewer then states he shares. Critics of this persuasion (along with Thomas Szasz and others) would relegate the concept of mental illness to a form of disturbed social action.

A more conciliatory and comprehensive approach is reflected in a brief Foreword by David C. Bazelon, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals:

It is not the psychiatrist's role to determine whether or not a defendant is criminally responsible. The jury alone must make the difficult judgment. The psychiatrist's task is simply to enable the jury to understand the dynamics of the defendant's mental and emotional processes.

Dr. Watson, as psychiarist—lawyer, adopts a combinative approach. He tries to teach lawyers the subtleties and intricacies of human motivation and behavior, using the same conceptual framework of the psychiatrist. He would have lawyers interview, even treat clients with the same degree of clinical acumen that the psychiatrist affords his patients. That is, he would provide his clients with a clinically oriented legal therapy.

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