Prearraignment forensic evaluations: toward a new policy.

S. A. Ornish, M. J. Mills and M. C. Ornish,
Bull. Amer. Acad. Psychiatry & the Law 24(4): 453-70, 1996.
Prearraignment forensic evaluations are forensic psychiatric evaluations performed on a suspect soon after his or her arrest. In the guise of ethics, the committee members who originated this code have imposed apparently personal and political views on all members of respective professional organizations in order to circumvent rulings of the judiciary, including the U.S. Supreme Court. The prohibition against prearraignment evaluations represents a misapplication of physician-as-healer-based medical ethics--in which the core principle is the physician's beneficence to the patient--to the forensic arena, where no physician-patient relationship exists and healing is not the purpose. The ethical code prohibiting prearraignment evaluations reflects misguided paternalism and political bias, as well as being in direct conflict with current law. Whether or not prearraignment evaluations should be permitted is primarily a Fifth and Sixth Constitutional Amendment issue more than a traditional medical-ethical one. Ethics and the law, when both are examined carefully, suggest prearraignment evaluations are proper when performed responsibly.