Evil or Ill? Justifying the Insanity Defence

Evil or Ill? Justifying the Insanity Defence

Evil or Ill? Justifying the Insanity Defence

Evil or Ill? Justifying the Insanity Defence

Synopsis

Lawrie Reznek addresses these questions and more in his controversial investigation of the insanity defense in Evil or Ill ? Drawing from countless intriguing case examples, he aims to understand the concept of an excuse, and explains why the law excuses certain actions and not others. In his easily accessible and elegant style, he explains that in law, there exists two excuses derived from Aristotle: the excuses of ignorance and compulsion. Reznek, however proposes a third excuse - the excuse of character change. In introducing this third excuse, Reznek raises a controversial possibility - the abolition of the insanity defence.

Excerpt

This book is about excuses in general and the insanity defence in particular. It explores the justification for the insanity defence, and asks when we should excuse a person rather than punish him. Central to the book is the attempt to draw the distinction between those who are evil and deserve punishment, and those who are mentally ill and deserve treatment. The book explores the clash of fundamentally opposed views of evil behaviour-the medical view that it is caused by a disease, and the legal view that it is the product of our choices.

No book is a solo effort. I would like to thank William Newton-Smith for his philosophic and editorial assistance. I would also like to thank my mentor, Vivian Rakoff, for his help and support. Alex Greer helped with an earlier draft and made many useful comments, and the Reader for Routledge also provided a most insightful review. I would also like to thank my colleagues at the University of Toronto and the Toronto Hospital, especially Paul Garfinkel and Gary Rodin, without whose support the book would not have been written. I am grateful to Churchill Livingstone for providing me with a copy of their excellent Principles and Practice of Forensic Psychiatry at an affordable price. My thanks to my secretary, Rosanne Davidson, who helped keep me organized. Lastly, I must thank my wife Eleanor and my children Sam, Jess and Will for tolerating frequent visits to my Macintosh.

I have dedicated this book to my physician father who taught me more than anyone about what it is to be a good man and a good physician-about both morality and medicine-which are the subjects of this book.

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