Recent court cases involving the death penalty highlight an awkward conflict for forensic psychiatrists who provide the courts with expert testimony. How should psychiatrists draw the line between the Hippocratic Oath's obligation to help patients and the legal system's need for psychiatric evidence? The conflict is intensified when courts ask psychiatrists to administer treatment that could make a prisoner eligible for trial, conviction, and capital punishment.
Wright State psychiatrist Douglas Mossman, M.D., will examine these issues at psychiatry grand rounds at Good Samaritan Hospital (GSH) on Tuesday, June 5. "The Death Penalty, Mental Illness, and Psychiatric Experts" begins at 12:00 p.m. in the GSH auditorium, 2222 Philadelphia Drive, Dayton.
A widely respected authority on psychiatry and the law, Mossman presented expert testimony recently in court deliberations surrounding the controversial execution of Ohio death row inmate Jay D. Scott. Mossman is a professor and director of the Division of Forensic Psychiatry at Wright State University School of Medicine. He also is an adjunct professor at the University of Dayton School of Law.
Mossman's grand rounds presentation will review sociodemographic aspects of capital punishment in the United States as well as recent court decisions that have amplified the role that psychiatrists play in determining whether mentally disabled defendants will receive death sentences and have them carried out. He will discuss four criminal cases - Wilford Berry, Jay D. Scott, Claude Maturana, and Russell Weston - that have raised major questions about how the legal system should handle condemned persons with mental illnesses.
"These cases exemplify the increasing importance - and awkwardness - of the relationship between psychiatric expertise and administration of the death penalty," Mossman says.