IPT Book Reviews

Title: Jekyll on Trial: MPD and Criminal Law
Authors: Elyn R. Saks and Stephen H. Behnke
Publisher: New York University Press, 1997

New York University Press
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012
(800) 996-6987
$29.95

This book is divided into nine chapters, an appendix, a table of legal cases, a list of references and an index. The authors begin by decrying the entertainment aspect of Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) (now called Dissociative Identity Disorder) on television talk shows. They observe that the disorder is a popular fad today and that there is disagreement over whether it actually exists as an independent disorder. This professional disagreement creates significant problems for the courts, who must deal with cases where witnesses claim to have MPD.

The authors' theory is that we currently know so little about this disorder that we should suspend judgment. They claim that some cases may be valid and that courts and juries should understand that treatment rather than punishment is the appropriate disposition when a criminal defendant has MPD. They believe that alter personalities are real and that the alter personality may go unpunished while we punish its victim. Their thesis is that, since MPDs may be "unlike real people," society should not hold them criminally responsible. They describe the case of Billy Mulligan, who raped three women, claiming that he was ordered to rape by a lesbian alter, but was acquitted and sent to a mental hospital. They argue that the courts should differentiate between defendants with MPD who are convicted and sent to prison versus those labeled criminally insane who are sent to a mental hospital.

The authors note that assessment techniques for MPD are limited and that the empirical literature is sparse. Most professionals have not had even one case and the treatment literature is anecdotal or based upon small samples.

This book answers few questions about the nature of MPD but raises many important ones.

Reviewed by LeRoy G. Schultz, Emeritus Professor, West Virginia University.

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