What is it about?

This paper investigates the nexus between the legal provisions for the certification of insanity and the introduction of psychological medicine into British medical education. Considering legal and published sources, it shows that the 1853 Lunatic Asylums Act proved fundamental for the promotion of medical psychology as part of medical training. By giving doctors the authority to report “facts of insanity”, this law created the need for “psychological physicians” capable of certifying lunacy. I explore this connection in three sections. First, I introduce the emergence of medical certificates in the context of asylum committal. Second, I focus on the certification procedure introduced in 1853 which required “facts of insanity personally observed”. Third, I consider how British asylum doctors advocated for the diffusion of psychological medicine as an essential university subject for certifying practitioners. This paper emphasizes the relevance of confinement legislation in the development of psychiatry as a medical specialty.

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Why is it important?

It highlights the importance of mental health legislation in shaping education needs


This paper considers legal responsibilities as an important factor for establishing academic training

Filippo Maria Sposini
University of Toronto

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This page is a summary of: The rise of psychological physicians: The certification of insanity and the teaching of medical psychology, International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, January 2021, Elsevier,
DOI: 10.1016/j.ijlp.2020.101667.
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