Free will and psychiatric assessments of criminal responsibility: a parallel with informed consent [Book Review]

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 13 (4):313-320 (2010)


In some criminal cases a forensic psychiatrist is asked to make an assessment of the state of mind of the defendant at the time of the legally relevant act. A considerable number of people seem to hold that the basis for this assessment is that free will is required for legal responsibility, and that mental disorders can compromise free will. In fact, because of the alleged relationship between the forensic assessment and free will, researchers in forensic psychiatry also consider the complicated metaphysical discussions on free will relevant to the assessment. At the same time, there is concern about the lack of advancement with respect to clarifying the nature of the forensic assessment. In this paper I argue that, even if free will is considered relevant, there may be no need for forensic researchers to engage into metaphysical discussions on free will in order to make significant progress. I will do so, drawing a parallel between the assessment of criminal responsibility on the one hand, and the medical practice of obtaining informed consent on the other. I argue that also with respect to informed consent, free will is considered relevant, or even crucial. This is the parallel. Yet, researchers on informed consent have not entered into metaphysical debates on free will. Meanwhile, research on informed consent has made significant progress. Based on the parallel with respect to free will, and the differences with respect to research, I conclude that researchers on forensic assessment may not have to engage into metaphysical discussions on free will in order to advance our understanding of this psychiatric practice

Download options


    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 72,879

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library


Added to PP

33 (#350,533)

6 months
1 (#386,016)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Gerben Meynen
VU University Amsterdam

References found in this work

The Significance of Free Will.Robert Kane - 1996 - Oxford University Press USA.
Living Without Free Will.Derk Pereboom - 2001 - Cambridge University Press.
Living Without Free Will.Derk Pereboom - 2003 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 67 (2):494-497.
The Significance of Free Will.Robert Kane - 1996 - Philosophical and Phenomenological Research 60 (1):129-134.

View all 30 references / Add more references

Similar books and articles

Should or Should Not Forensic Psychiatrists Think About Free Will?Gerben Meynen - 2009 - Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 12 (2):203-212.
Free Will and Mental Disorder: Exploring the Relationship.Gerben Meynen - 2010 - Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 31 (6):429-443.
Consent and Informational Responsibility.Shaun D. Pattinson - 2009 - Journal of Medical Ethics 35 (3):176-179.
The Gettier Problem in Informed Consent.S. Cohen - 2011 - Journal of Medical Ethics 37 (11):642-645.
Informed Consent and Routinisation.Thomas Ploug & Soren Holm - 2013 - Journal of Medical Ethics 39 (4):214-218.
Forced to Be Free? Increasing Patient Autonomy by Constraining It.Neil Levy - 2014 - Journal of Medical Ethics 40 (5):293-300.
The Role of Regret in Informed Consent.Miles Little - 2008 - Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 6 (1):49-59.