Right to Refuse Treatment

Topics: Psychiatry, Sell v. United States, Capital punishment Pages: 3 (1054 words) Published: November 15, 2008
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In SELL v. UNITED STATES, the question was whether the constitution allows forcibly medicating a mentally ill defendant so that he/she can be competent for trial for serious crimes that are non-violent. The constitution does allow this but under certain circumstances. Sell was found to be mentally incompetent to stand trial after examination by a magistrate the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners. Sell decided to challenge the decision made by the Medical center to force the medication on him. Because he was a danger to himself and others, the magistrate gave the go ahead on forcing him to take the medication. This would most likely the best way to bring him back to competency to stand trial and it was in the strong interest of the government to bring him to trial with a focus on the fraud charges against him. Sell’s argument was that the forced medication was in violation of the constitution because it “improperly deprived him of an important liberty that the constitution guarantees”. Under Harper, (HARPER v. WASHINGTON) “an individual has a constitutionally protected liberty interest in avoiding the unwanted administration of antipsychotic drugs”. With that being said, the court still considered a state law that allowed forced medication to inmates that are a danger to themselves and others.

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Under HARPER v. WASHINGTON and RIGGINS v. NEVADA, the constitution allows the government to administer antipsychotic drugs to a defendant against his will, facing serious charges in order to make that defendant competent to stand trial, but only if the treatment is appropriate, and is most likely to not have side effects that effect the fairness of the trial.

According to an article written by Dr. Howard V. Zonana, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical...
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