Patients with mental illness and their family members not only have to manage the complications of their medical services, but also have substantial interactions with other social institutions such as the legal, correctional, and other governmental systems. The Psychiatry, Law and Society Program provides expertise to help individuals and their care providers navigate important ethical and legal questions that arise in their care.
The PLSP educates future leaders in the field of Psychiatry and the Law, and spearheads innovative solutions at the interface of mental illness and the legal system, community, and health care policy. We drive specialized research to improve and shape mental health policies, destigmatize mental illness and substance use, and change the way communities deal with gaps in continuous mental health care.
Integrative Approach to Education
Beyond educating patients and the community, our faculty take a collaborative approach to educating and training healthcare professionals. We host didactics and seminars for trainees and support opportunities for them to connect to many settings (i.e. courts, jails, state hospitals) that manage the needs of the mentally ill across the mental health system.
Program research focuses on improving social, governmental and legal systems that play a role in the treatment of the psychiatric patient. The program examines the deleterious effects of untreated psychosis and mood disorders on overall health and risk of harm to patients and to the community. The program conducts comparative research in mental health law, in order to help psychiatrists, other health professionals, and patient families navigate the legal system and understand assessment and treatment needs. Additional activities include partnering with policy specialists to address and advise policy makers and global health specialists on improvements in mental health law.
Medical Liaison and Legal Consultation
PLSP offers liaison services to the hospital by advising around legal issues (e.g. Tarasoff and duty to protect, level of risk, questions of capacity and competency, international legal differences, medical and psychiatric guardianship) and helps clinical teams strategize the best plan of action. Additionally, we consult and have specialty clinics for patients who require care that interacts with the probationary system and mental health court. We advise on bridging care for patients who are having trouble maintaining their court ordered treatment, have problematic behaviors, and patients who have complicated legal issues.
Additionally, our faculty provide consultation to legal counsel and the courts on issues that emerge at the intersection of mental illness, the law and risk management.
Jhilam Biswas, MD is the Director of The Psychiatry, Law and Society Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She is also the Co-Director of the Harvard Mass General Brigham Forensic Psychiatry Fellowship. She is a board-certified forensic psychiatrist with a focus on social systems, cultural dynamics, criminal justice reform, and legal issues impacting psychiatric care. Since 2015, Dr. Biswas practiced forensic and clinical psychiatry at Bridgewater State Hospital, a strict security forensic hospital and prison. She also conducted court-ordered forensic evaluations as a licensed Designated Forensic Professional (DFP) and has brought her broad expertise to Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Eric Drogin PhD JD is the Affiliated Lead of Psycholegal Studies. Dr. Drogin is a clinical and forensic psychologist and attorney. His primary clinical focus is on forensic psychological assessment, testimony, and trial consultation in both criminal and civil matters. His research and trainee supervision span many topics in forensic psychiatry and the law including involuntary civil commitment, eyewitness testimony, digital mental health tools, evidentiary requirements, confidentiality and privilege, post-conviction proceedings, diminished capacity, and other topics.
PLSP has faculty members that span across the Mass General Brigham health system and are involved in teaching and training residents and providing patient consultation. To learn more on our faculty, please see our Forensic Psychiatry Fellowship website.