Prearraignment forensic evaluations: toward a new policy.
S. A. Ornish, M. J. Mills and M. C. Ornish,
Bull. Amer. Acad. Psychiatry & the Law
24(4): 453-70, 1996.
Prearraignment forensic evaluations are forensic psychiatric evaluations performed on a suspect soon
after his or her arrest. In the guise of ethics, the committee members who originated this code have
imposed apparently personal and political views on all members of respective professional
organizations in order to circumvent rulings of the judiciary, including the U.S. Supreme Court. The
prohibition against prearraignment evaluations represents a misapplication of
physician-as-healer-based medical ethics--in which the core principle is the physician's beneficence
to the patient--to the forensic arena, where no physician-patient relationship exists and healing is not
the purpose. The ethical code prohibiting prearraignment evaluations reflects misguided paternalism
and political bias, as well as being in direct conflict with current law. Whether or not prearraignment
evaluations should be permitted is primarily a Fifth and Sixth Constitutional Amendment issue more
than a traditional medical-ethical one. Ethics and the law, when both are examined carefully, suggest
prearraignment evaluations are proper when performed responsibly.