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4 Behav. Sci. & L. [i] (1986)

handle is hein.journals/bsclw4 and id is 1 raw text is: 


                                                           INTRODUCTION
                                                             TO THIS ISSUE









                             Amnesia










  Much of forensic practice is predicated on the successful reconstruction of the criminal or civil
issue in question. The assessment process is greatly complicated when the evaluatee claims partial
or total amnesia regarding his/her thoughts, emotions, perceptions, and behavior. Of these, only
occasionally can behavior be fully reconstructed. The others are intrapersonal phenomena which,
at best, can be inferred from observed behavior. This is problematic both for forensic clinicians
attempting to address comprehensively specific legal standards, and for participating attorneys
in the effective presentation and advocacy of their cases.
  The foremost clinical issue in the assessment of amnesia is establishing its authenticity. As
the courts are well aware, it is often difficult to distinguish true from malingered amnesia.
Other clinical issues include the etiology (psychogenic vs. organic), specific diagnosis, and the
course and extent of the amnestic disorder. Of particular relevance, is the relationship of the
reported amnesia to the specific legal issue. The presence of amnesia may constrain the evaluation
of retrospective issues (e.g., personal injury and criminal responsibility), current issues (e.g.,
fitness to stand trial and competency to handle one's affairs), and future issues (e.g., treatability
and dangerousness).
   Amnesia is discussed in this issue from both legal and clinical perspectives. Hermann, in the
first article, provides a legal overview of amnesia with a detailed examination of the relevant
case law. This is followed by Rubinsky's and Brandt's clinical review of amnesia with a dis-
cussion of amnestic disorders and their recognition by the courts.
  Other contributions address a wide range of topics relevant to amnesia and the law. In an
important paper, Schacter discusses clinical methods and their limitations in the detection of
malingered amnesia. Greene examines the controversial topic of forensic hypnosis and its use to
lift amnesia in victims and witnesses of crime. Cunnien presents a concise introduction to al-
coholic blackouts and discusses the legal and social policy implications of these findings. Roesch
and Golding integrate recent case law with current clinical research in their discussion of amnesia
and its role in competency to stand trial. The final contribution is by Morse who offers a cautionary
note regarding amnesia and other special topics which may deflect our attention from crucial and
more general legal issues.
                                                                   Richard Rogers, Ph.D.
                                                           James L. Cavanaugh, Jr., M.D.

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