Polemics & Exchanges

On Pleading Insanity

Janet Scott Barlow missed the point completely in her article about the Houston woman who drowned her six children in June ("Hearing More, Feeling Less," Vital Signs, September). She interpreted the woman's husband's matter-of-fact, emotionless demeanor in front of the press the day after the killing as a byproduct of "an explosion of coverage." Thus, Mrs. Barlow's central point seems to be a strong disapproval of "media whores."

At the press conference, the husband clearly stated his wife's drowning of the children was a symptom of her depression; that she did not mean to kill the children, but that she was sick; that she loved her children. He was there in front of all those journalists to defend his wife's innocence. He explained her behavior as if it were the case of a mother who failed to feed her children after she had suffered an acute attack of meningitis, causing her to lose consciousness—no intention, no guilt, just a biologically determined phenomenon.

The husband's demeanor and behavior were perfectly in line with the official position of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the American Medical Association (AMA): Depression and many other "mental illnesses" may cause a person to kill another person unintentionally. The killer is not a murderer...

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