Critics’ Reviews

"This concise yet comprehensive scholarly review of mental health law in NSW … will meet the needs of a very diverse readership. Lawyers and mental health professionals, … students in these and other disciplines, … the ordinary reader, … policy analysts, politicians and journalists …

There is a long and convoluted history around the development of the medico-legal concepts of mental illness and a mentally ill person. … Lawyers, civil libertarians, health workers, journalists, politicians, expert panels and worried citizens have gnawed at the gristly bone of this exceedingly complex legislation … Issues such as the individual’s rights to freedom and privacy, protection of others from potential harm, duty of care and right to treatment have been argued over as societal attitudes change and with advances in science concerning diagnosis and treatment.

Peter Shea’s careful and thorough review, illustrated by pertinent and sometimes bemused quotations from politicians and policy makers, is very readable." – Mental Health Matters, July 2001

"For health administrators, the book provides an excellent historical account of the organisation of psychiatric services in New South Wales, from before there were any, through to the post-deinstitutionalisation era.

… the book excels in its principal purpose, namely, to provide a lucid and accessible reference for everyone in the community who needs to understand and be able to apply the legal criteria for civil commitment to involuntary treatment for mental illness…

Those grateful for Dr Shea’s work will include carers, consumers of mental health services, mental health lawyers, doctors and administrators. – Current Issues in Criminal Justice, July 2000

"This slim volume is a welcome part of the Institute of Criminology Monograph Series… It fills a gap for those requiring a clear overview of the way in which mental health law has developed, particularly in New South Wales, and it draws attention to the substance of the debates surrounding the concepts of ‘mental illness’, ‘mental disorder’ and ‘mentally ill person’." – Psychiatry, Psychology & Law, April 2000

"This short book … focuses on an historical review of mental illness in New South Wales …

But it is far more than simply a history of the attempts of the legislature and judiciary to come to grips with the vexing problem of what is and what is not mental illness. Further, it highlights the problems encountered when a definition permits incarceration of a person and the deprivation of their liberty, when that definition itself contains uncertain and imprecise criteria.

For any person who imagines themselves as having an interest in the forensic side of the law, this is a very interesting book, written in a style which is easy to read and absorb. It will give any reader a greater understanding of the very difficult problems surrounding the identification of an adequate description of mental illness and of how questions of public policy have influenced most attempts at defining the term, in earlier legislation. It is highly recommended reading." – Law Society of Tasmania newsletter, June 2001

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