Newletter Masthead
September 1999 · Vol. 24, No. 3, p. 13

International Congress on Law & Mental Health

Jagannathan Srinivasaraghava, MD

The XXIVth International Congress on Law & Mental Health was held from June 13-18, 1999 in Toronto, Canada, under the auspices of the International Academy of Mental Health & Ministry of Health of Ontario. The meeting was attended by more than 1000 delegates from nearly forty-five countries.

Two major topics were presented in detail on the first three days of the Congress. A two day conference showcased "The Variables of Moral Capacity" chaired by David Thomasma of Loyola University and David Weisstub of the University of Montreal. There were numerous presentations from various and differing viewpoints such as the sociological, psychological, moral, ethical, and psychoanalytic perspectives, and autobiographical narratives from patients. The next plenary session was on "Mental Health & Public Policy" which included international perspectives and controversies in the delivery of forensic mental health care.

The subsequent three days of the conference were devoted to 107 sessions, each lasting from 90-120 minutes. Each session had three to ten presentations on related topics. There were seven to ten concurrent sessions spread out in three buildings. The topics were of interest to a broad range of professionals. With numerous concurrent sessions, there were more interesting topics than anyone could hope to attend.

There were presentations on major topics in forensic psychiatry including criminal responsibility, violence and risk appraisal, sexual offenders, correctional psychiatry, substance abuse, psychiatric ethics, and aspects of suicide. A significant number of presentations were made on child forensic issues, geriatric forensic issues, and PTSD. The international flavor of this Congress was reflected in sessions and lectures dealing with International trends in mental health reform, public policy regarding mentally ill offenders, torture, human rights, and consumer advocacy.

The sessions concluded before 6:00 p.m. and allowed an hour and a half for lunch each day, providing international colleagues an opportunity to enjoy fellowship at their leisure. Our President Elect, Tom Gutheil MD, is on the Board of Directors of the International Academy of Law and Mental Health. At his invitation, and taking advantage of the close proximity, numerous AAPL members attended the Congress, and contributed excellent presentations.

This meeting was an enjoyable one in terms of content and quality of presentations. There were some interesting sessions in French, for which simultaneous translation would have attracted a larger audience. By design, the organizers do not include the discipline of abstract presenters, which made it hard to know international colleagues of the same discipline.

The International Academy of Law & Mental Health plans to have their Silver Jubilee Congress at Siena, Italy next June. The Academy may be reached by E-mail at or on the Web