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Artificial Sanity

A Case Study for a Class in Introductory Psychology


Sheila O’Brien Quinn
Department of Psychology
Salve Regina University


Using the story of death row inmate Charles Singleton, who developed paranoid schizophrenia while in prison awaiting execution, this case study explores the relationship between a society’s concept of mental illness and its treatment of people who are mentally ill. Students are asked to identify the model of mental illness assumed by each of the lawyers in the case and to explain the implications of that model in terms of the defendant’s rights and responsibilities.


  • To provide students with a concrete example that will focus their discussion of the abstract principle of mental illness.
  • To show how each conceptual model directly influences the treatment people with a mental illness receive.


Sanity; insanity; right to treatment; concepts of mental illness; mental disorder; insanity plea; maladaptive behavioral repertoire; Charles Singleton

Topical Areas

Social justice issues, Legal issues

Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division



Type / Methods

Discussion, Dilemma/Decision



Subject Headings

Psychology  |   Sociology  |  

Date Posted


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Elizabeth Davidson
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Little Rock, AR
I think this is a wonderful case study to utilize with my associate degree nursing students in a mental health nursing course.