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Head To Head Maudsley Debate

Do cases like that of Anders Breivik show that fanaticism is a form of madness? Yes

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e4612 (Published 11 July 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e4612

Rapid Response:

Re: Do cases like that of Anders Breivik show that fanaticism is a form of madness? Yes

Developmental Psychopathologist Simon Baron-Cohen argues that there is perhaps no such thing as good and evil, just differences between individuals on the empathy spectrum (1).

It is recognised that today, and throughout history, some people simply lack empathy, either due to neurophysiological abnormalities, life influences or a combination of both.

Breivik clearly lacks empathy. However, does this make him less accountable for his actions?

I would argue not due to the meticulous planning involved in the genocide and the knowledge that his callous acts would have a profound traumatic effect on the Norwegians and their democratic way of life.

If he is finally considered insane and not found criminally accountable, then what were the point of the Nuremburg trials?

(1) http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/05/us-science-evil-idUSTRE7442Q62...

Competing interests: No competing interests

16 July 2012
Richard Bartley
Physiotherapist
NHS
Colwyn Bay