AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Journal of Ethics Header

AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Virtual Mentor. October 2013, Volume 15, Number 10.

Ethics Poll

Mental Illness and Crime: Drawing the Line

The Ethics Poll is a snapshot of the opinions of interested readers.

Most states have some restrictions on people who have been convicted of sex crimes after they have served their criminal sentences. The restrictions range from commitment in “nonpunitive,” civil facilities to limitations on where the offenders can live to publicly available registries of their home addresses. Which of the following best describes what you think about these postprison restrictions?
Civil commitment is necessary because most people convicted of sex crimes reoffend.
It is justified to restrict where sex offenders can live and to keep public registries of their addresses, but not to confine them in civil facilities.
If the person has completed his or her prison sentence and is not subject to civil commitment, it is unjust to restrict where he or she can live or to publish his or her home address for everyone to discover.
I don’t know enough about the nature of sex offense to say whether or not such restrictions are justified.

Which of the following best describes what you think when you read or hear in the media a physician’s comment on the actions and mental health of a person accused of a mass killing?
I give the physician’s statement more credence than I would that of a bystander or reporter.
I take the physician’s statement in the same vein that I would that of a bystander or reporter.
I discredit the opinion because it is unethical for a physician to make comments on the health of someone, whether that person is a patient or not.
I worry that the physician’s opinion will influence the accused person’s judge or jury.

“Sanism” refers to a prejudice on the part of society, judges, and juries against people with mental illness. Do you believe that “sanism” is prevalent in U.S. society?
Yes.
No.
Don't know. (To learn what the attorney who coined the word "sanism" thinks about this question, see "Medicine and Society" in the October issue of VM.)

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Poll results reflect the opinions of visitors to the site who voluntarily answer the poll questions. Those visitors do not represent a random sample of Virtual Mentor readers. The viewpoints expressed on this site are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.