The Structure, Function, and Future of Mental Health Law

Document Type


Publication Date



This essay considers the foundational rationale for why the law treats at least some mentally disordered people specially in a wide array of civil and criminal contexts. It suggests that non-responsible incapacity for rational behavior in specific contexts is the primary principle that warrants special legal treatment. It also considers the major distractions and confusions about why such special treatment is sometimes justifiable. It concludes with the reductionist challenge to conceptions of mental disorder and more broadly to the law that some advocate, usually based on the new neuroscience of brain imaging.


Mental health law, mental disorder, law and mental health, neuroscience, mental health treatment

Publication Title

Perspectives in Biology and Medicine