19 Sep Dr. Harold Bursztajn Speaks on Forensic Interviews and Diminished Capacity Examinations
The midday session of the National Criminal Defense Forum on Forensic Mental Health & the Law was led by the incredible Dr. Harold Bursztajn from Harvard Medical School. In addition to teaching, Dr. Bursztajn practices both forensic and clinical psychiatry.
At the outset of his discussion, Dr. Bursztajn explained the difference between forensic vs. clinical psychiatry and explained why a treating clinical psychiatrist should not simultaneously conduct a forensic examination. The difference is that the goal of a clinical psychiatrist is to help a patient with his suffering. On the other hand, when wearing the hat of a forensic psychiatrist, the doctor must try to be objective.
When conducting a forensic evaluation, Dr. Bursztajn emphasizes the need for assessing the individuality of the person and the usefulness of conducting an unstructured interview. Although he said it much more eloquently, a comprehensive forensic evaluation cannot be based on checklists.
Dr. Bursztajn discusses the notion of malingered sanity, a more likely scenario than malingered insanity.
As Dr. Bursztajn says, “an accused person would rather accept blame than accept shame.”
Iris Eytan is a Partner at Reilly Pozner LLP. She practices Criminal Defense with an emphasis in mental health defenses.