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NEW YORK WIPES OUT LUNACY COMMISSIONS
THOMAS C. DESMOND
Am J Psychiatry 1939;96:205-211.
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Chairman, New York State Senate Committee on Affairs of Cities.

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Abstract

Of tremendous assistance in the difficult campaign of serving adoption of this reform measure were the New York Psychiatric Society; New York Neurological Society; New York State mental hygiene commissioner, Dr. William J. Tiffany; and his predecessor in that office, Dr. Frederic W. Parsons; Mr. Lawrence Veiller, president of the Citizens' Crime Commission of New York State; Miss Elsie M. Bond, assistant secretary of the State Charities' Aid Association, and newspapers throughout the state.The social aim of this type of legislation is to assure a scientifically accurate examination of sanity in the most expeditious manner at the least cost to the taxpayer. The new statute attempts to meet this standard in every respect.Although it does not solve numerous complex problems relating to psychiatry and criminal law, the new Desmond law does mark a tremendous step forward. To the public, the new statute is important because it smashes the lunacy commission "racket," removing a huge source of political patronage, and cutting the cost of sanity examinations. To the accused, the new law assures a scientific procedure for it turns over to psychiatrists the medical problem of determining sanity at time of trial. To the psychiatrist, it means an opportunity to determine the sanity of defendants unhampered by political appointees, lawyers and laymen—an opportunity to serve the public more efficiently and more effectively.

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