Abe Halpern, M.D. (1925-2013)

Posted on May 11th, 2013 by Dr. Blumenfield


Dr-Abraham-Halpern150My friend and colleague Abe Halpern passed away on April 20, 2013. Abe was a remarkable and unforgettable person. He was a loving and dedicated husband, father, grandfather and and great grandfather.  He also was a skilled forensic psychiatrist and an activist for many the causes in which he deeply cared about.

Abe and I belonged to the same District Branch (Westchester Psychiatric Society) of the American Psychiatric Association and were both on the faculty of New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York, so I had numerous opportunities to see him in action. I also observed him stand up for his beliefs at the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association where he introduced various resolutions which were passed due to his persuasive advocacy. He was a reader of this blog and was kind enough to frequently make constructive suggestions to me.


I had the opportunity to sit and down  and conduct a one to one  recorded interview with Abe where he discussed three topics which were dear to his heart. This interview is presented below in three parts:


Part One  – Is there a role for a psychiatrist in the care of a prisoner who is being executed?

Part Two – Is there a role for a psychiatrist in the questioning of a prisoner?

Part Three – Should Marijuana be legalized ?



Born 2/2/1925. Died 4/20/2013 as a result of an earlier fall. His family emigrated to Canada in 1927. As a teenager, he joined the Royal Canadian Navy serving in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters during WWII. After the Korean War, he was honorably discharged at the rank of Lieutenant Surgeon Commander. A medical school graduate of the University of Toronto, he practiced psychiatry for over 50 years and was a leader in the subspecialty of forensic psychiatry. Awards from the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, and from many other organizations of medicine reflect a life dedicated to human rights. He marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma, fought against China’s torture of the Falun Gong and illegal organ transplantation, the misuse of the insanity defense, and forced psychiatric hospitalization without judicial review. He was a national and international leader against the involvement of physicians in capital punishment and also physician participation in coerced interrogations of prisoners. All were subject of his prolific publications. He is survived by his beloved wife Marilyn, and his loved children (and spouses) Howard, Lon (Barbara), Marnen (Herdis), Chaia (Adam), Mark (Tomoko), Emily, and John. He was an adoring grandfather of 11 and great-grandfather of 5.


On May 20th 2013 the Social Psychiatry Committee of the APA awarded Abe Halpern the Humanitarian Award. John Halpern accepted the award on behalf of his father. In the future this award will be named the Abe Halpern Humanitarian Award. Click here to see John’s tribute to his dad on that day





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