Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

Forensic Psychiatry in India: Past, Present, and Future

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

Forensic Psychiatry in India: Past, Present, and Future

Article excerpt

Byline: S. Nambi, Siva. Ilango, Lakshmi. Prabha

Forensic psychiatry is a subspecialty of psychiatry, in which scientific and clinical expertise is applied to legal issues in legal contexts embracing civil, criminal, correctional, or legislative matters. Forensic psychiatry is still in an infant stage in India and other developing countries. Law is the sanctioning discipline, and Psychiatry is the therapeutic discipline. Due to various reasons, Forensic Psychiatry is reared as Cinderella in our country; "which is much neglected, ignored, misinterpreted, and misunderstood. Legislation forms an integral component in the implementation of Mental Health Care; there is a dynamic relationship between the concept of mental illness, treatment of the mentally ill, and the law. Mental Health legislation is essential in protecting the rights and dignity of persons with Mental Disorders and for implementing effectively the mental health services. "Effective mental health legislation can provide a legal frame work to integrate mental health services in the community as to overcome stigma, discrimination, and exclusion of mentally ill persons. Legislations can also create enforceable standards for high quality medical care and improve access to care and protect civil, political, social, and economic rights of the mentally ill individual, including right to access to education, employment, housing, and social security."

INTRODUCTION

Forensic psychiatry is comparatively a new upcoming and developing field in India. The definition of forensic psychiatry as provided by the American Board of Forensic Psychiatry and the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law is as follows: "it is a subspecialty of psychiatry in which scientific and clinical expertise is applied to legal issues in legal context, embracing civil, criminal, correctional, or legislative matters. Forensic psychiatry should be practiced in accordance with guidelines and ethical principles enunciated by the profession of Psychiatry.

The practicing Psychiatrists and the Postgraduates (PGs) in Psychiatry have very little practical knowledge of forensic Psychiatry. Although the Indian Psychiatry Society (IPS) has formed a separate specialty section in forensic psychiatry, there is not much progress in this area. The state mental hospitals are about 50 in number in India. Some of these Psychiatry hospitals do not have full-fledged forensic psychiatric units. Most of the private and government medical college psychiatry units do not have much exposure to Forensic Psychiatry except a few. Hence, teaching and training in Forensic Psychiatry is not adequate for the Psychiatry postgraduates throughout the country. Some medical colleges post their postgraduates students to some state-run hospitals forensic units for a short period of training. Many practicing psychiatrists especially youngsters find it difficult to handle cases related to psychiatry and law. Gone are the days when forensic psychiatry is more restricted to psycho-criminology and mental health Act. Today's psychiatry is involved in very, many spheres of our day-to-day life. There is a lot of interface between psychiatry and law.

Today, the practice of psychiatry is no longer defined by the psychiatrists and the patients as they were once. The law is omnipotent in the practice of psychiatry. Becoming legally knowledgeable is not optional for psychiatrist today. Psychiatrists do not need to choose between what is clinically good for the patient and what is legally good for the psychiatrist (defensive practice). Defensive psychiatry practice intended to protect the psychiatrists with marginal benefit for the patient is neither legally or clinically beneficial. Legally informed psychiatry and good clinical psychiatry do not happen serendipitously; they require specialized knowledge.

Another reason for psychiatrists to experience knowledge of law is not to respond to a threat, but to assist in achieving in the laws therapeutically potential. …

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