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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Steven T. Herron, MD (University of Arizona Health Sciences Center)
Description: This concise and easy-to-read book reports on recent research results and provides a brief review of prior studies on neonaticide and infanticide. Authors from fields such as medicine, psychology, and law pen 11 of the 13 chapters.
Purpose: Two major purposes for this book are described: to provide suggestions to other investigators for future research and to assist "mental health and law practitioners" participating in cases with "women accused of infanticide."
Audience: The primary audience for this book are mental health professionals (primarily forensic practitioners both in the evaluation and treatment of this specific population, as well as those involved in research of forensic populations) and attorneys defending women accused of these crimes.
Features: This book includes 11 chapters individually written by various professionals involved with research, treatment, evaluation, and defense of women accused of neonaticide or infanticide. A chapter about a separate British law for women committing these offenses provides a global view on differing approaches to the problem. There is also a discussion on the history of infanticide and neonaticide in the first chapter. In addition, an anonymous therapist discusses the struggle to overcome the stereotypes and countertransference involved in treating these patients in chapter. Each chapter has an extensive list of references at its conclusion.
Assessment: Overall, this interesting and well-organized book provides an updated review of the limited literature on the topic of infanticide and neonaticide. The newer studies provide additional insight into the characteristics associated with these offenders and, in general, attempts to address previously unanswered questions about these women to provide a more comprehensive risk assessment picture. Yet, one of the drawbacks of this work is the apparent bias of many of the chapters' authors. Although the introduction of the book relates a bias on the part of the editor, numerous chapters attempt to explain all incidents of this disturbing crime as related to psychiatric illness and chemical disturbance. Even given that women with psychiatric disorders commit many, if not most, of these offenses, it is unfair to those with legitimate mental illness to combine women who commit these crimes for other reasons in the same category. As with most cases involving the interpretation of behavior following events, each case should be reviewed and examined on its own facts for the determination of guilt or innocence. Most readers, like the authors and editor, would agree that punishing legitimately psychiatrically ill offenders serves no real purpose, especially those committing the tragic acts described in these pages. However, many would also argue that blindly excusing criminal behavior before exploring the facts specific to each individual case is unjust and unacceptable.