Mental Unsoundness





The presumption in law is in favour of a person's sanity, even though he

may be deaf, dumb, or blind.



The terms 'insanity,' 'lunacy,' 'unsoundness of mind,' 'mental

derangement,' 'madness,' and 'mental alienation or aberration,' are

indifferently applied to those states of disordered mind in which the

person loses the power of regulating his actions and conduct according

to the ordinary rules of society. The reasoning power is lost or

perverted, and he is no longer fitted to discharge those duties which

his social position demands. In some cases of insanity, as in confirmed

idiocy, there is no evidence of the exercise of the intellectual

faculties. It is probable that no standard of sanity as fixed by nature

can be said to exist. The medical witness should decline to commit

himself to any definition of insanity. There is no practical advantage

in attempting to classify the different forms of insanity.



According to English law, madness absolves from all guilt, but in order

to excuse from punishment on this ground it must be proved that the

individual was not capable of distinguishing right from wrong in

relation to the particular act of which he is accused, and that he did

not know at the time of committing the crime that the offence was

against the laws of God and nature.



Lunatics are competent witnesses in relation to testimony, as in

relation to crime, if they understand the nature of an oath and the

character of the proceedings in which they are engaged. The judge, as in

the case of children, examines the lunatic tendered as a witness as to

his knowledge of the nature and obligation of an oath, and, if

satisfied, he allows him to be sworn.



A person, if suffering from such a state of mental unsoundness as to be

unable to take care of his property, may be placed under the care of the

Court of Chancery. The Court then administers his property, and

otherwise allows him entire freedom of action.



With regard to the care of lunatics, no person is allowed to receive

more than one lunatic into his house unless such house is licensed and

the proper certificates have been signed. One patient may be taken

without the house being licensed, but the usual certificates must in all

cases be signed, and the Lunacy Commissioners communicated with. If a

person receives another not of unsound mind into his house, and such

person becomes subsequently insane, the person so keeping him renders

himself liable to heavy penalties, unless the legal certificates are at

once procured and the Commissioners of Lunacy communicated with.



At common law it appears that a lunatic cannot be placed in an asylum

unless dangerous to himself or to others, but under the Lunacy Acts the

placing of a madman in an asylum is considered as a part of the

treatment with a view to the cure of the patient.





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