The Mcnaughton Rules: Are They Insanely Outdated?

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The McNaughton Rules: Are They Insanely Outdated? Since 1843, more than 170 years ago, the McNaughton Rules have been a set of rules and testing for determining whether or not someone is criminally responsible for a criminal offence. The McNaughton Rules have become the criterion for the insanity defense for the past 172 years in most of the English-speaking world, and are still used today (Bennett, 2009). The insanity defense is a legal excuse for criminal responsibility that is available to those with serious mental illnesses (Felthous, 2010). The McNaughton Rules have faced much criticisms, even since its enactment. Debates by legal and mental health professionals have been desperate to conclude if the rules are still permissible after so…show more content…
Keedy (1910) shares a similar opinion as he wrote that these rules were based on evidence of a time when even the medical profession was narrow in its understanding of mental illnesses and disorders. It is therefore important to use a historicist perspective when discussing the McNaughton Rules as the mid 1800’s was a very different time period from current day. Keedy (1910) also adds that testimony from the McNaughton trial was based on the testimony from the physicians there, and medical understanding has grown considerably since then. With that being said, this one important aspect in the debate argues that the McNaughton rules are too outdated. In addition, Keedy (1910) argues that criminal responsibility of those deemed to be insane is construed not from law, but by incorrect views of psychology and medicine. Therefore, a conflict remains in trying to satisfy both medical science and legal principles (Keedy,…show more content…
However, because there is a gap between the advancements made by science and medicine, and what is accepted legally as a mental disorder, only those deemed severe enough to incapacitate a person’s understanding or knowing of wrongdoing would be found to be not criminally responsible (Toole, 2012). Therefore, a barrier draws the line between legal and medical diagnoses and the debate continues on what illness or disorder qualifies. With the many advancements in psychiatry, neuroimaging, and neuroscience, Toole (2012) hopes the McNaughton Rules will be reconsidered because of this controversy. The British Medical Journal (1922) foreshadowed the same argument by Toole (2012) by saying that the courts do not want to admit that an offender is not criminally responsible, so a problem would arise between the medical and legal opinion in regards to what should and should not be accepted as an insanity

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