Medicine: The Insanity Plea

New knowledge of mental diseases clearly outdates old legal definitions of insanity. But courts and legislatures have been slow to make changes. Still in common use is the 118-year-old British-devised M'Naghten Rule, under which the accused must stand trial and face punishment if 1) he knew what he was doing when he did it and 2) knew right from wrong. Modern psychiatry's major try at an improvement is the Durham Rule,* under which the accused is spared trial and possible punishment if, at the time of the crime, he was suffering from a "mental disease or mental defect," and the crime...

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