The Impact of Biological Psychiatry on the Law: Evidence, Blame, and Social Solidarity


  • Jennifer A Chandler Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa.



This article considers the history of biological understanding of mental disorder, and explores the impact of today’s dominant neuroscientific approach on the law. The author argues that this approach subtly affects legal rules and practices, and that these socio-legal effects will likely be enhanced by the increasingly sophisticated use of neuroscience in biological psychiatry. The author illustrates the impact of the neurobiological model using five areas of law: evidence of mental states, the definition of disability in human rights law, criminal responsibility, the regulation of brain interventions, and the regulation of reproductive technologies.