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Law professor who’s written about her schizophrenia wins MacArthur 'Genius' grant

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The MacArthur Foundation has announced its annual list of fellows – recipients of the so-called “Genius Grants.” KPCC’s Cheryl Devall says one of them is a USC legal scholar whose work focuses on expanding the rights of mentally ill people.

For 20 years, Elyn Saks has been on the faculty of USC’s law school. She’s also working toward a doctorate in psychoanalysis.

Saks’ interest in these fields of study isn’t merely academic. Two years ago the publication of her memoir The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness revealed what many of her colleagues and students hadn’t known – that for most of her life she has had schizophrenia. Saks has applied her scholarly and personal experience to policy discussions about mental patients’ rights regarding involuntary commitment to institutions, refusal of treatment, and capital punishment.

She is leading an interdisciplinary study of high-functioning schizophrenics – a population she says many scholars have overlooked. Her half-million dollar MacArthur grant, with no strings attached, is one of 24 the foundation made this year to outstanding thinkers in academia, science, the arts, and journalism.