Stranger than fiction

Today I attended the hearing of a rapist… who raped–of all people–a nun… and the rape took place in–of all places–a church… you really can’t make any of this up.

So this is what life has been like on forensic psychiatry. Literally all kinds of crazy. It’s fascinating, horrifying, blood-curdling, all at the same time, but while being all these things it also has to be empathy-inducing, understanding, and hopeful. It’s fun to hear horrific stories (as long as they happen to someone else) because you just can’t imagine some of these things would happen in real life. And I admit, it’s really cool to feel like you’re on CSI or Criminal Minds. But then, you can’t just be shocked and disgusted, because these perpetrators then turn around and become your patients. And, hippocratic oath notwithstanding, your due diligence is to your patient first and foremost. So these killers, rapists, abusers, and so on who have committed horrifying actions are now in your hands and at the mercy of the legal system. You become both a patient advocate while at the same time providing factual evidence for the crown prosecutor to keep the public safe. You walk a very tight rope between wanting what’s best for your patient and wanting what’s best for society. Those two rarely seem to be the same thing in this business.

And there is a certain air of regality to the whole court thing, the whole being hired as an expert witness and being a service to the lawyer. It seems exhilarating to be cross examined, to have to know the ins and outs of your patient well enough to put forth a case to the review board and crown whose best interests are often against the patient’s wishes for freedom and privileges. It’s this interesting mix of both psychiatry and law, and it looks like a demanding and challenging job that requires you to be the best of both worlds. Plus, everyone wears suits and looks boss.

This is literally exactly what I was hoping to get out of elective time. An introduction to a whole world I’ve never been exposed to (I’d laugh if any medical student had even heard the term “forensic psychiatry”), one that both thrills me and makes me think deep and hard about whether I’d want to devote my life to something as mentally exhausting and challenging as this.

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