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Comparative Lunacy Law

  • A. Wood Renton

Considering the closeness of the ties which the existence of such bodies as the Medico-Psychological Association have created between alienists throughout the world, it is surprising that so little attention has been paid to the comparative side of the medical jurisprudence of insanity. In the spring of 1898 there was published in New York a treatise by Dr. Clevenger and Mr. Bowlby, an American barrister (Medical Jurisprudence of Insanity, or Forensic Psychiatry, 1898, Lawyers' Co-operating Publishing Company, 2 vols., pp. 1356), in which excellent work in this direction, so far as England and the United States are concerned, was done. The book is a monument of labour. Every conceivable branch of forensic medicine is discussed with learning and ability, and an admirable index, both of cases and of subjects, renders fairly accessible to the reader the otherwise bewildering mass of legal information which the editors have so industriously accumulated. It is not, however, specially of efforts of this kind that it is desired to speak in this paper. The problems of lunacy law and lunacy administration with which civilised countries have to deal are, to a great extent, similar. It would obviously be of immense international importance if the solutions attempted of these problems in different parts of the world and the results of such experiments were systematically chronicled from time to time, so as to give the lunacy authorities, lawyers, and experts of the chief countries of the globe the benefit of each other's experience. It may be of interest to select some instances of the manner in which different countries have dealt with questions that are constantly arising. Take first interdiction and curatory. The voluntary and judicial interdiction of Scots law is sufficiently familiar to alienists (for full information on the subject see Stair, i, 6, 37; iii, 8, 37; Bankt., i, 7, 118; Ersk., i, 7, 53; Bell, Com., 139, Prin., S. 2123; Fraser, P. and C., 554).

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(1) A family council is composed of six blood relatives in as near a degree of relationship to the lunatic as possible; if there are not six, relatives by marriage are then chosen. Such a council is always presided over by the Juge de Paix of the district where the lunatic is domiciled (Civil Code, Arts. 407 and 408).

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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: -
  • EISSN: 2514-9946
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
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Comparative Lunacy Law

  • A. Wood Renton
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