The New York Times has reported that in a remarkable turn of events prosecutors in Norway asked that Anders Behring Breivik be committed to a hospital rather than sent to prison. What seemed particularly significant was their reasoning: “In our opinion, they said, it is worse that a psychotic person is sentenced to preventative detention than a nonpsychotic person is sentenced to compulsory mental health care.” The following day the Times reported that Breivik's defense lawyers were arguing that he was of sound mind when he committed the crimes. Understanding why these arguments are the reverse from what I would ordinarily expect is certainly a puzzle. Later I learned that Members of the defense team evoked Mr. Breivik’s human rights in their conclusion that he should be held accountable for his crimes. Mr. Breivik has said that the killings were committed in self-defense to combat what he has called the “Islamic colonization” of Europe. He has argued that an insanity judgment would detract from his cause. "The defendant has a radical political project, said Geir Lippestad, onf of his lawyers. "To make his acts something pathological and sick deprives him of his right to take responsibility for his own actions."I am curious about other cases where the defense and prosecution have made similar arguments.
Tuesday, June 05, 2012
The Archives of General Psychiatry has published another of James Harris' wonderful discussions of art and psychiatry. This month Harris discusses the American painter Benjamin West's (1738-1820) painting of Erasistratus Discovering the Cause of Antichochus' Disease. He uses the painting as an opportunity to provide brief, incisive discussion of Lovesickness. I have had a longstanding interest in lovesickness. As Stanley Jackson pointed out many years ago Lovesickness provided one of the earliest circumstances where doctors diagnosed and treated pathogenic secrets as the cause of illness. Thanks to Harris for expanding my appreciation of this interesting disorder.