Our society compartmentalizes experience and knowledge. Life does not. People’s lives and actions are
complex and to understand them, we need a variety of perspectives. No single branch of knowledge can
capture all we need to know.
So it is with law and psychiatry. e law is concerned with human behaviour. It sets the bounds
of permissible conduct, imposes sanctions for violation of those bounds, and seeks to rehabilitate the
oender. Psychiatry is also concerned with human behaviour. It, too, looks at whether a person has vio-
lated accepted norms, asks why, and on the basis of that understanding, determines how the person can
be helped and rehabilitated. Two branches of knowledge with one common subject — human behaviour.
A century ago, law and psychiatry operated in largely separate spheres. e law devoted little eort
to understanding its human subject matter. It was largely content to prescribe and punish. Until recently,
the rule in M’Naughten’s Case (which held that a person who did not have the capacity to know the nature
and quality of his acts could not be convicted of a crime), supplemented by rudimentary excursions into
testamentary capacity, were the only intersections of the law and psychiatry that most law students ever
encountered. Lawyers, in the course of their work, seldom sought the advice of psychiatrists. For their
part, psychiatrists mostly carried out their medical duties without too much concern for the law.
Much has changed. We have come to understand that law and psychiatry are intimately related,
and that the knowledge possessed by practitioners of one is vita l to practitioners of the other. Law cannot
accomplish its purposes without understanding the mental processes that drive the human behaviour
with which law is concerned. For its part, psychiatry cannot heal oending and incapacitated persons
without an understanding of the legal framework that governs their rights and responsibilities.
Our belated understanding of the interdependence of law and psychiatry and their impact on indi-
viduals has created a need to bridge these formerly separate disciplines. Lawyers must be able to access
psychiatric knowledge. Psychiatrists must understand the processes of the law.
is book will help meet that need. It is broad in scope, yet detailed in clinical explanation. It is
written in a style that makes it accessible to a diverse readership, from students of psychiatry to veteran
psychiatrists; from board members through to lawyers to judges. It is an important work, and one that
will make an important contribution to both medicine and justice in Canada.
the right honourable be verley mclachlin, pc
chief justice of ca nada

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