Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Konoy Mandal, MD (Rush University Medical Center)
Description: The past quarter-century of mental health law is honored in this book based on lectures given at a University of Virginia sponsored conference in 1997. The result is a view into the thinking of a who's who in mental health law, any one of whom would pack a lecture hall.
Purpose: The book explores cases and events that shaped mental health law in its infancy. The authors bring unique perspectives to, and help define, some of the central questions in the field. The passions and frustrations of the contributors give the reader a better idea of what and how the field's theory and application can improve.
Audience: Anyone with an interest in mental health law, from the obvious attorneys and mental health professionals to sociologists and policy makers, would benefit from reading this book. Fellows in forensic mental health will get practical advice on how to improve their role for the courts.
Features: The book covers an important set of topics ranging from the struggle to bring humanitarian procedures and substance to the treatment of people with mental illness, to the changing landscape facing mental health law. Chapters of note deal with research participation by the mentally ill, the nature of criminal responsibility, the influence of managed care on mental health law, and the evolution of mental health expert testimony. However, since the book is a collection of opinion pieces, it would have been interesting to see pros and cons for some of the ideas expressed.
Assessment: The book accomplishes its goals of addressing major developments in mental health law and policy over the past 25 years and exploring trends likely to influence the field's future. Like all good historical perspectives, the book gives us a better understanding as we make changes in the future.