Psychopathy Treatment and the Stigma of Yesterday's Research

Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 29 (3):243-272 (2019)
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The psychiatric diagnosis of psychopathic personality—or psychopathy—signifies a patient stereotype with a callous lack of empathy and strong antisocial tendencies. Throughout the research record and psychiatric practices, diagnosed psychopaths have been predominantly seen as immune to psychiatric intervention and treatment, making the diagnosis a potentially strong discriminator for treatment amenability. In this contribution, the evidence in support of this proposition is critically analyzed. It is demonstrated that the untreatability perspective rests largely on erroneous, unscientific conclusions. Instead, recent research suggests that practitioners should be more optimistic about the possibility of treating and rehabilitating diagnosed psychopaths. In light of this finding, concrete ethical challenges in the forensic practice surrounding the psychopathy diagnosis are discussed, adding to a growing body of research that expresses skepticism about the forensic utility of the diagnosis.

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Rasmus Rosenberg Larsen
University of Toronto at Mississauga

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