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Journal Article

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The Psychiatric Report: Principles and Practice of Forensic Writing




© Cambridge University Press 2011. The two most important products of forensic work are expert testimony and the written reports that precede it. Experience and reflection combine to reveal certain core ethical premises. First, forensic reports should hold to the same professional values that guide forensic practice. Dr. Robert Simon’s traditional expectation that “writing with clarity and precision is a core competency in forensic psychiatry” (Simon 2007) serves as a touchstone for this discussion. For a report (or expert testimony) to be of high quality and credibility, it must be transparent, persuasive, accurate, free of jargon, consistent in its data and conclusions, useful, and non-prejudicial. However, we believe these aesthetic and technical necessities of report writing must be considered at another level. Clinical professional practice follows certain aesthetic and technical processes in order to achieve credibility, but these processes sit upon an ethical core or foundation. This foundation must be appreciated if we are to provide ethical reports.

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