9 Hamline L. Rev. 193 (1986)
Premenstrual Syndrome as a Legal Defense; Riley, Thomas L.

handle is hein.journals/hamlrv9 and id is 203 raw text is: PREMENSTRUAL SYNDROME AS A LEGAL DEFENSE
Thomas L. Riley*
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) has been called the world's most
common disease.1 A consensus of various studies indicates that sev-
enty to ninety percent of all women suffer recurrent premenstrual
symptoms and that twenty to forty percent suffer some degree of
mental or physical incapacitation.' Assuming the accuracy of these
figures, it is logical that many women accused of or involved in a crime
may suffer from PMS to some degree. Since the symptoms range in
severity from mild to totally disabling,3 the expert witness on PMS
must evaluate to what extent the syndrome was a factor in the circum-
stances leading to the accusation or arrest.
Because there has been much discussion in the media it is common
knowledge that PMS can be responsible for illogical or irrational be-
havior, including criminal acts. This is largely a result of the notoriety
of two murder cases in England in which Dr. Katharina Dalton was
able to prove that the uncontrollable behavior of the defendant was due
to severe PMS. This resulted in a reduction of the charges against the
accused. The role of expert witnesses in defining and diagnosing the
syndrome and the factors expert witnesses must consider need to be
clarified. PMS potentially influences the behavior of some women to
such an extent that excluding PMS as a criminal defense is cata-
strophic for them. The countervailing political, social, and ethical con-
siderations appear less significant when viewed from the perspective of
the individual PMS sufferer whose actions are the result of a hormone
* M.D., California College of Medicine; B.A., Whittier College; Diplomate of the Ameri-
can Board of Family Practice. Dr. Riley is in private practice in Pasadena, California.
2. Reid & Yen, Premenstrual Syndrome, 139 AM. J. OBSTET. & GYNEC. 85, 86 (1981).
3. Symptoms of a mild nature include headaches, anxiety, breast soreness, and weight
gain. Severe symptoms include migraine, extreme depression, memory loss, anti-social behavior,
child-beating, alcoholism, and crime.
4. Regina v. Craddock, an unreported 1979 English decision; Regina v. English, an unre-
ported 1981 English decision. For a discussion of the Craddock and English cases, see Note,
Criminal Law: Premenstrual Syndrome in the Courts, 24 WASHBURN L.J. 54, 62-64 (1984).

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