MacArthur Fellows Program

Elyn Saks

Mental Health Lawyer | Class of 2009

Expanding the options for those suffering from severe mental illness through scholarship, practice, and policy informed by a life story that adds uncommon depth and insight.

Title
Mental Health Lawyer
Affiliation
University of Southern California Gould School of Law
Location
Los Angeles, California
Age
53 at time of award

Elyn Saks is a legal scholar and mental health-policy advocate whose work and life story are expanding the options for those suffering from severe mental illness. Trained at Oxford in philosophy, at Yale in jurisprudence, and currently a Ph.D. candidate in psychoanalysis, Saks is recognized by the mental health profession and by legal scholars alike as an important contributor to national debates on mental health policy. She has played a major role in contemporary discussions of mental health law, patients’ rights, and multiple-personality disorder, including such issues as involuntary commitment, competency to be executed, proxy consent, and the right to refuse treatment. Her contributions and commitment to mental health law took on a personal dimension with the publication of her 2007 memoir, The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness. In this memoir, Saks made public for the first time her lifelong struggle with schizophrenia, including severe episodes of psychosis as well as experiences with misguided or harmful treatments. Remarkably, she has been able to overcome this usually debilitating illness, bringing to her work both expert and firsthand perspectives. Though Saks achieved professional acclaim as a legal scholar before most friends and colleagues knew of her own battle with mental illness, the publication of her memoir has provided additional gravity to her contribution to scholarship, practice, and policy. Currently, Saks is leading a study with a multidisciplinary team of colleagues to understand better high-functioning schizophrenics, a largely unexamined area. Her personal biography will give this study an uncommon depth and richness and further extend her impact on mental health law and disability rights policy.

Elyn Saks received a B.A. (1977) from Vanderbilt University, an M.Litt. (1981) from the University of Oxford, and a J.D. (1986) from Yale Law School. Her additional publications include numerous scholarly articles and the books Interpreting Interpretation: The Limits of Hermeneutic Psychoanalysis (1999) and Refusing Care: Forced Treatment and the Rights of the Mentally Ill (2002). She joined the faculty of the University of Southern California Gould School of Law in 1989, where she is currently associate dean and the Orrin B. Evans Professor of Law, Psychology, and Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

News About this Fellow
August 9, 2017
"The Consent Dilemma"
Politico
Elyn Saks, 2009 MacArthur Fellow
August 24, 2016
"The Scholar With Schizophrenia"
Folks Stories
Elyn Saks, 2009 MacArthur Fellow
July 25, 2016
"Professor's Life Story Proves Opera-Worthy"
USC News
Elyn Saks, 2009 MacArthur Fellow
November 26, 2015
"Skidmore to Host Talks on Mental Illness, Seafood Revolution"
Saratogian News
Elyn Saks, 2009 MacArthur Fellow
March 26, 2015
"Stigmatized Schizophrenia Gets a Rebrand"
The Daily Beast
Elyn Saks, 2009 MacArthur Fellow
February 13, 2014
"Brilliant, Successful and Living With Schizophrenia"
Al Jazeera
Elyn Saks, 2009 MacArthur Fellow
View all news

Photos

Photos are owned by the MacArthur Foundation and licensed under a Creative Commons license: CC-BY.
Credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Right-click on a link below to save the file to your computer.


More Fellows

View All 2009 Fellows

Stay Informed
Sign up for periodic news updates and event invitations. Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.