General conclusions

Forensic psychiatry can be pursued effectively and ethically only if it is based on substantial knowledge of the psycho-legal interface and only if such knowledge is fully integrated into clinical practice. Whether involving the use of law for the purposes of improving an individual's mental health, and/or the protection of others, or involving the use of psychiatry towards legal purposes entirely unrelated to psychiatric care, the clinician can only be effective if he or she understands the nature of the legal questions which are to be intertwined with his or her clinical knowledge. This has implications for the training of doctors and, at an earlier stage, of medical students. In the United Kingdom there has been acceptance by the General Medical Council of the need for generic training of medical students in medical law and ethics(52> as well as determination of a core curriculum for the subject.(53) What is needed is similar acceptance of the need for such training for doctors generally at a postgraduate level, and specifically for psychiatrists. Only when psycho-legal studies become embedded in, and threaded through, clinical training and practice will there be any likelihood of reliable, valid, and ethical practice in the field, as it relates to all aspects of both law and psychiatry.

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