Not guilty (sinful) by reason of insanity?


#1

Mental illness is a medical condition, that cannot always be aided by various things like medicine, therapy, etc.

Those that are schizophrenic, who commit crimes, even such as murder, are they held to the same ‘standards’ as those who are not mentally ill? Are they condemned to hell for a condition they are not responsible for having? Not everyone has the resources or ability to get the help they need, and that help doesn’t always ‘work’, anyway.

What if it is done under the influence of drugs or alcohol you willingly consumed, that you caused your mind to bend so much you injured another or committed a horrendous crime?

Suppose you DO have the ability to get help, but don’t take the medication that keeps you from being ‘crazy’ because of the side effects? Or suppose those side effects are what push you to commit a crime/sin (such as suicide)?

For example, the woman in Texas who almost 20 years ago drowned her children in the bathtub.

Thanks.
C


#2

Only God knows what sort of hell these people go through, and only God can judge them. It’s a good idea to pray for them.


#3

Insanity by definition means that you lack full knowledge, because you lack the ability to know right from wrong. So a person who is insane cannot possibly commit a mortal sin.

Mental illness is something slightly different. Do I think that a person with moderate bipolar who is not on their meds can commit a mortal sin: yes. Do I think there are cases where his bipolar may make him not culpable: yes. Do I think a schizophrenic can: generally speaking, no. It all comes down to full knowledge and full consent of the will. God is the only person who knows this in each individual case.


#4

I would worry less about crimes by someone who is bipolar than I would about somwone who is a sociopath or a psychopath.


#5

… are they held to the same ‘standards’ as those who are not mentally ill?

Probably not. Three conditions must be met for something to be a mortal sin:

  1. The act must be grave matter.
  2. The person must understand that it is grave matter.
  3. They must make a deliberate choice to do it anyway.
    (This is my paraphrase of CCC 1857-1859. Your interpretation may differ.)

In the case of #1, murder is obviously grave. #2 is a bit more difficult; in the case of a true schizophrenic, he or she is probably not capable of understanding that it is grave matter. #3 is also difficult. A schizophrenic might be capable of making a choice, but was it deliberate?

What if … under the influence of drugs or alcohol you willingly consumed, … you injured another or committed a horrendous crime?

This is a little more difficult. In the case of drunk driving, I think there is enough “don’t do it” information out there that both getting drunk and getting into your car drunk are deliberate choices.

But it can be hard for a person to know when they’re too drunk to drive because at some point, one’s judgment begins to deteriorate. But there is no excuse at all if you have been arrested for drunk driving before.

As for drugs, some people claim that they’re just fine driving while stoned. My own experience showed me that my judgment – primarily the ability to think fast – was not compatible with safety when I was stoned. I thank God that the results were nothing more than some good scares.

Suppose you DO have the ability to get help, but don’t take the medication… because of the side effects?

There are many psychotropic drugs. They all act differently on different people. Someone can experiment (with the help of a doctor, of course!) and probably find one that alleviates the symptoms enough to stay well enough to cope, but doesn’t have awful side effects.

Another factor: these drugs are very expensive. For instance, I am absolutely dependent on the generic version of Trileptal. Without my health insurance, it would cost me $470 a month. Yes, the generic version. I can’t afford that. Thankfully, most or all of the drug companies will give drugs free to people who can’t pay for them. (But if nobody tells you about it, you won’t apply…)

Or suppose those side effects are what push you to commit a crime/sin (such as suicide)?

I suspect you are thinking of the accusation that some psychotropics have caused people to commit suicide. But I believe that the sufferer has already made up their mind, before they are treated.

One of the components of depression is fatigue; it’s extreme enough that you don’t have enough physical energy to get out of the bed or chair, let alone wash the dishes. Sometimes, especially with young people, their energy may come back before rationality does. Result: they carry out their plans.

The drug caused their energy level to return to normal - but that’s not the cause of the suicide. Keep in mind that all of this is my own idea, based on my own experience. (And thank you, Lord, for getting through to me that it wasn’t my responsibility to decide when I die, and that I needed to go to the doctor!)

For example, the woman in Texas who almost 20 years ago drowned her children in the bathtub.

I believe that it wouldn’t have happened without her husband’s neglect. She had post-partum depression with more than one birth earlier. It was entirely predictable that it would happen this time, too. He did nothing. He should at least have been watching for symptoms. It made me very angry that nobody seemed to blame him at all. :banghead: :crossrc:


closed #6

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