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This entry traces the origins of mental health law, discussing its transition from a medical model to a legal model and considering recent trends. It examines several of the major topics in the field, including civil and criminal commitment, patients' rights, and criminal justice issues. It then discusses how therapeutic jurisprudence, an emerging paradigm, has begun to transform the field.

Mental health law was first conceived as a separate field of law in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Before then, laws certainly existed on various topics later subsumed within mental health law. These included the law governing civil commitment, guardianship, the legal insanity defense, and incompetency to stand trial, among others. The common law had clarified some of the legal issues raised by mental illness, ...

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