|Q: Responsible for Actions While Manic?
Dear Dr. Phelps,
My daughter suffers from bi-polar illness and is very
taking care of herself. Recently she just graduated from a
two Degrees. However, she was having medication problems thsi last
and was having a mild manic episode while shse was writing a paper.
Inadvertantly, she forgot to cite something on her paper. She was brought
up before a Judicairy committee and found guilty. I am outraged and
we supplied her doctors statement also. We are appealing this
because there was no intent ever to plagarize. My question is can a person
be held responsible for their action while having a manic episode.
Obviously, I do not think so but would appreciate any direction for
defense that you can offer. There was not one trained doctor
present at this hearing and I am livid.
Hello Lucy --
You can imagine the size of the can of worms this question can lead to, i.e. the
kinds of things people could use this defense against: murder, robbery,
etc. So while your daughter's case is not at all troubling from society's
point of view (only her committee), the implications are. As I see it,
society is not prepared to accept that "bipolar disorder", and being
less than one's usual self in some fashion because of it, is an acceptable
excuse for legal offenses -- unless one is prepared to offer the awful "not
guilty by reason of insanity" defense; i.e. complete admission of
"mental illness" and incapacity therefrom.
A better answer, perhaps, would be simply to say that I
am not aware of anything useful with which to help you, I fear. This is
more a legal question than a medical one; or at least
philosophical/social. I haven't had a patient face this
circumstance. I often talk with folks about how to handle disclosing their
illness in the work setting -- i.e. whether and how much -- but not quite this
Published June, 2001