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For our next session...
Popping into your mind
Hugh Laurie: This is what we pay our psychiatrists for, is it? Well, well, well. Yes, I shall be writing a very stiff letter to the Daily Mail about this! Now cure me of my madness, or I won't put my shoes on. Ever.
Stephen Fry: ... You write letters to the Daily Mail?
Hugh: Not exclusively the Mail. Sometimes the Sun or the Mirror.Wikipedia's W.svg
Stephen: And they publish them?
Hugh: Of course.
Stephen: Just a moment... [Picks up copy of the Sunday Mirror] Is this one of yours? "A good way to stop your money being stolen is...
Both:... to keep it in a special pocket sewn inside your coat."
Stephen: You're Mrs June Ellis of Stockport?
Hugh: Naturally. [...]
Stephen: Chest size?
Hugh: Forty-two.
Stephen: Stay here. I'll get your straightjacket.Wikipedia's W.svg
Hugh: God the lengths you have to go to in this country to prove you're mad!
—A Bit of Fry and Laurie[1]

Insanity is recognised as a behavior in which the person exhibiting it displays beliefs or actions that fall outside of the "normal" recognition of society. Such actions can cause the person to exhibit behaviors that cause them to become a danger to themself or others. When used properly in the fields of psychology, medicine, and law, it denotes the previous definition. The term insanity is more frequently used in an incorrect form, often used in lieu of "abnormal", "unusual", or "crazy."

[edit] Legal and medical insanity

Despite popular conception, insanity is not considered a medical term, and has been replaced as a legal term.[citation needed] The former usage of insanity did encompass disorders ranging from delusions to schizophrenia. The main usage for insanity comes from the legal term, and is used to denote defendants who plead that they were incapable of understanding or controlling their actions at the time they committed the crime. This plea is, again, despite popular perception, rarely used. Officially, the American Medical Association disapproves of the usage of the insanity defense, but the defense has only been outlawed in three states (in order, Utah, Montana, and Idaho).[citation needed][2]

In England and Wales, the rules governing criminal insanity still come from the 1843 House of Lords decision in M'Naghten. They ruled that:

the jurors ought to be told in all cases that every man is to be presumed to be sane, and to possess a sufficient degree of reason to be responsible for his crimes, until the contrary be proved to their satisfaction; and that to establish a defence on the ground of insanity, it must be clearly proved that, at the time of the committing of the act, the party accused was labouring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or, if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong.

Contrary to popular opinion, claiming insanity as a defence in court isn't a terribly good idea. First off, it's not a defence, it's a special plea of "not guilty by reason of insanity". And second, the usual result is that you get sent to a secure mental hospital forever.[3] This is why it's always good to get your own lawyer rather than defending yourself and relying on old episodes of LA Law.

[edit] Insanity and genius

It is not by confining one's neighbor that one is convinced of one's own sanity.
—Fyodor Dostoyevsky in A Writer's Diary

The difference between insanity and genius is subtle, but usually obvious: the genius generally has a superior perception of reality to what is presently prevailing, as contrasted with the insane person's inferior perception.

To take an example: Gene Ray is insane. Albert Einstein does not drool on his papers.

[edit] References

  1. A Bit of Fry and Laurie. Season 2, Episode 1. Section available via transcript online.
  3. s5 of the Criminal Procedure (Insanity) Act 1968 allows courts to impose a hospital order on those found not guilty by reason of insanity, and Sch 1 s2 Criminal Procedure (Insanity and Unfitness to Plead) Act 1991 allows this to be almost indefinite. Whilst community-based options are available, restriction and hospital orders still form roughly half of all disposals for those found not guilty by reason of insanity. See RD Mackay, 'Ten more years of the insanity defence' (2012) 12 CLR 946.
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