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Introducing law and insanity

Neuroscience is a field that can contribute to the development of law. One focus is the insanity defence. Professor Dennis Patterson explains more.
© University of Surrey

Neuroscience is often regarded as a field that can contribute to the development of law, especially criminal law. One focus is the insanity defence.

The insanity defence is used to eliminate the ‘guilty mind’ requirement for criminal action. If one has a diseased or disordered mind, one is incapable for forming the requisite intent to commit a crime. The law presupposes we are all rational creatures. But if someone is the victim of an insane mind, they do not make rational decisions and, hence, cannot be held responsible for their actions.

For example, there are many cases where individuals who are victims of, say, brain abnormalities, engage in anti-social or criminal conduct. Imagine a case where a person engages in sexual misconduct and is found to have a tumour in his brain. The tumour is removed and the behaviour stops. Should that person be acquitted? What if the crime is murder? Does that make a difference? These are some of the questions that are studied by lawyers and scholars alike at the intersection of law and neuroscience.

© University of Surrey
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Jurisprudence: Introduction to the Philosophy of Law

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