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Traumatic Brain Injury Could Increase Risk of Criminal Charges

Suffering Traumatic Brain Injury Could Increase Risk of Criminal Offenses and Chargesshutterstock_569494966

A new medical study suggests that suffering a traumatic brain injury can dramatically increase the chances the patient will participate in criminal activity. The likelihood of an individual criminally offending with a TBI rose as much as 60% in some cases.

“The ability to judge such things as a business dispute, family argument or a child’s misbehavior and then assess reasonable discipline is fairly indicative of one’s ability to rationally and socially integrate within society,” said Dr. Jordan Grafman, study investigator and director of brain injury research at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. “This study finds that those suffering from penetrating TBI may not have the capacity to appropriately assess proper punishments, a factor which suggests how people will do in the real world.”

A study involving medical data from about 30,000 Australians, born between 1980 and 1985. About 8,000 of those patients were treated for traumatic brain injury at an emergency room or hospital. The study was controlled for other “confounding factors” like substance abuse or pre-existing psychiatric problems. The control group included siblings of the traumatic brain injury sufferers, to control for family history.

“The main results suggest that experiencing a TBI increases the likelihood that an individual may subsequently offend,” Dr Schofield says. “About 10 per cent of those without a TBI and 18 per cent of those with a TBI subsequently offended up to age 30 years.” That was about 60% of the traumatic brain injury sufferers, according to the published study.

Another, similar study in the US examined 114 Vietnam War veterans who suffered traumatic brain injury. The study ranged from 2009 to 2012, and used imaging to locate physical damage to the veterans’ brains.

The study examined the ability to judge the seriousness of situations, ranging from delaying an oil change to graphic violence against another person. Researchers asked these questions of both the 114 veterans and a control group of 32 non-TBI veterans using flashcards. The veterans ranked the cards in order of least to most serious.

Veterans with frontal lobe injuries were less able to judge the seriousness of a situation, which could lead to issues with criminal charges, domestic violence, or drug abuse in the future.

“Having deeper understanding of challenges faced by patients with frontal lobe injuries — whether due to a traumatic brain injury, stroke, tumor, or other neurological disorder — can guide doctors in providing patients with more effective treatment. The goal is always to find new and better ways to help patients recovering from traumatic brain injuries — and their families — at home, at work, and in society,” the study’s lead author concluded.

“It seems likely that improved treatment of psychiatric illness might also reduce rates of TBI,” the Australian study concluded. “We think it’s likely that some individuals who enter the criminal justice system still suffer from the effects of a recent TBI and might benefit from specific treatment for that. Additionally, other offenders may have longer term side effects of a head injury with consequences for their behaviour and for coping with the stresses that imprisonment imposes.”

If you have suffered a traumatic brain injury due to another’s negligence, contact us for legal help.



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