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Personality disorder and the law: some awkward questions

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This article raises five key problems for the law in its dealings with those with severe personality disorder. These problems are set in the context of a legislative agenda that has embraced the conflicting objectives of rehabilitation and incapacitation, while striving to improve treatment for those with severe personality disorder, and minimizing the risk that they are thought to pose to themselves or others. The problems are examined from the perspectives of legislators, realists, clinicians and courts, empiricists and, finally, normativists; in short, what should the law be doing in this arena? The article concludes by urging a cautionary adherence to issues of legal principle in preference to the, albeit starkly portrayed, alternatives: namely, the seductive attractions of therapeutic intervention, or the destructive effects of indeterminate containment.

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