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I believe it is absolutely correct to say that the legal understanding of mental diseases is lagging behind the science, although I would broaden the statement to say that the legal understanding of the mind is lagging far behind modern neuroscience. The states of mind given in the Model Penal Code, for example, are almost Cartesian in nature, and so it's not surprising that the treatment of mental disorders is similarly out of sync.

Unfortunately I think there are systematic forces in the legal world the tend to encourage this misunderstanding. Certainly scientific investigation should proceed without strained ideological interpretations in the interest of good science, but a criminal defense attorney is constrained by different responsibilities. To take a topical example, if a study correlates a certain brain lesion with a higher incidence of schizophrenia, and a client has such a lesion and committed a crime consistent with that disease, an attorney defending that client has a certain responsibility to introduce the study and suggest that the client be excused or get a reduced sentence due to mental disease. In a sense this is bad science, as the study is not conclusive and doesn't reach causality, but the client is owed all reasonable defenses and it is certainly possible, given the science, that the lesion caused him to be schizophrenic and to commit the crime. While I think the attorney must be responsible with scientific findings, conveying all the nuances of a contentious scientific controversy in a courtroom borders on the impossible and the necessary scientific literacy takes time to develop. So to some degree attorneys will probably always be pushing interpretations of new science beyond what science would consider proper.

I suspect the new DSM will be similarly prone to use and abuse. However, to the degree that it functions as a barometer of what society considers forgivable mental disorders, it should be used in the legal field, and I would hope its inevitable abuse could be tempered by advancing public knowledge of the complexity of neuroscience.

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