Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/166

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154
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
RESPONSIBILITY IN CRIME FROM THE MEDICAL STANDPOINT.

By SANGER BROWN, M. D.,

PROFESSOR OF MEDICAL JURISPRUDENCE, RUSH MEDICAL COLLEGE, CHICAGO.

THE reason why a physician should be called upon to discuss such a subject as responsibility in crime must be because some organ or organs of the body are concerned, and he ought to know more about the structure and function of the bodily organs than other people. I believe medicine must furnish all the essential fundamental facts in the study of this subject.

According to the medical view of responsibility in crime, the mental status of the individual has to be investigated. In times past, a wide diversity of views has obtained regarding mind. Popularly expressed, some of the salient features of the view which has obtained for several centuries past have been that mind was a special endowment, bestowed by the Creator upon man, and upon no other animal. In some way not quite clearly understood, a will was also given to man, by which he was allowed a sort of freedom to choose as to whether he should allow the Creator to control his mind, or whether he should yield the management of it to an opposing power or Satan. Various manifestations on the part of the individual were regarded from time to time as evidence that either one power or the other had control, according as his conduct corresponded or not with what was commonly regarded as the best interests of the society in which he lived. The ordinary symptoms of acute mania were regarded as positive evidence that the evil one had possession, and the treatment consisted in placing upon the afflicted person charms, amulets, etc., which were regarded as obnoxious to the evil power, with the hope of making his tenancy uncomfortable, and thus inducing him to withdraw.

This view is the last survivor of those once so prevalent, which sought to explain everything of a mysterious nature by hypothecating an omnipotent personality presiding over it, and it prevailed exclusively during the early growth and development of our present criminal law.

Now, it is the proper province of modern medicine to study the construction and function of all the bodily organs, but for various reasons the brain has been the last of the larger and more important organs to be carefully studied; within the last decade, however, it has been very thoroughly investigated.

The result of that study tends to show — indeed, has demonstrated — that the functional product of the brain is mind, in precisely the same sense that bile is the functional product of the