I read an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “A Doctor’s Fight: More forced care for the mentally ill — Torry’s Push for state laws sparks growing debates over rights of patients, Mr. Hadd goes underground.” Unfortunately the article is not online (except if you have a subscription that costs money), but the first few paragraphs explain what the story is about pretty well…
Every other week, Jeff Demann drives to a clinic in rural Michigan, drops his pants and gets a shot of an antipsychotic drug that he says makes him sick.
“If I don’t show up, the cops show up at my door and I wind up in a mental ward,” says the unemployed 44-year old who lives on disability in Holland, Mich.
Mr. Demman’s routine reflects a national trend toward forcing people with psychotic tendencies to get treatment – even if they haven’t commited violent acts. Driving the trend are E. Fuller Torrey, a 68-year old maverick psychiatrist who blieves the laws help prevent crime, and memorabilia mogul Ted Stanley, who has contributed millions of dollars to the cause. . .
The story then goes on to tell the story of the fight to pass state laws to force mentally ill people to be forced to take medication (even if they have not harmed themselves or anyone else) and how counter-forced have arrisen from those who see this campaign as being about depriving people of the right to decide for themselves how they will manage their own illness. The story goes on to recount incidents of crimes committed by mentally ill persons, as well as people who have had to go into hiding to keep from being drugged against their will.
My opinion is that this smacks of the dystopian vision of the future in Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (If you haven’t read the book before or want a reminder of its plot, here’s a Wikipedia article that discusses it), in that those people who dared to think for themselves (or even read books!) would be locked away for insanity, and where antidepressant drugs are prescribed like candy. — In fact, read this section from the Wikipedia article on Fahrenheit 451 that discusses the ways that Bradbury was dead-on accurate in predicting where the world was going.
I understand that maybe there is a place to force someone to be treated if they are truly going to seriously harm others or themselves (that’s why we have guardianships and other legal means to take care of incompetent people, children, etc.), but those situations are rare. I do NOT think that it is appropriate to force a non-dangerous person into medical care, and I think it is a violation of basic human rights and dignity to force a person to be medicated.
The reality is, that everyone is crazy. That’s just the truth. All of us have differing levels and varieties of dilllusions, neurosies, depression, anxiety, etc. Sometimes we all need help in different ways to cope (be it through self-help, through “talk therapy,” or possibly medication), but I think that decision should be an informed decision that is made by the individual, and I personally think medication should be considered only as an option of last resort due to the fact that these drugs are often dangerous and are created by corporate interests that don’t have a conscience, and because doctors I don’t think can be trusted to make this decision for the patient. It’s not that I have anything against doctors per say, but I do object to the idea that professionals always know best.
And call me paranoid, but I could see these laws being very useful to the establishment to silence dissenting voices. We aren’t there yet, but I could see the day that those who dare to speak against war, oppression, the corporate agenda, etc. would be seen as “insane” and be medicated into a stupor so they can’t fight back.
Anyway that’s enough for my rant. Here’s some links that discuss this controvery…
PsychLaws.org – this is the website for the group that favors taking away an individual’s right to decide how they should be treated
MindFreedom.org – “MindFreedom International unites 100 grassroots groups and thousands of members to win campaigns for human rights of people diagnosed with psychiatric disabilities. MindFreedom International is where mutual support meets human rights activism… and where democracy meets the mental health system.”
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law – an advocacy group for the rights of people with mental disabilities, one of the folks who has been fighting this compulsory treatment movement