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Legal aspects of administrating antipsychotic medications to jail and prison inmates



Legal aspects of administrating antipsychotic medications to jail and prison inmates



International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 36(3-4): 213-228



The administration of antipsychotic medications to jail and prison inmates involves two related components: conducting the informed consent process in a coercive environment and, where consent is not obtained, forcible administration of medication if needed. In the United States, both involve common law, statutory, and constitutional principles. Obtaining informed consent in correctional institutions is complicated. Patients in correctional institutions lack access to alternate sources of information, and depend on the correctional system completely - a system which they may distrust. This may influence the patient's view of the administering physician. Where consent cannot be obtained, forcible administration may be legally permissible for two primary reasons: to restore a criminal defendant to competency in order to stand trial and to ameliorate severe symptoms of mental disability, particularly when they threaten the safety of self, others, or in some instances, property. The interests at stake for the individual and the government, and the legal standards developed to balance these interests, differ between the two situations. When considering challenges to forcible medication of inmates serving a prison sentence, the United States Supreme Court has treated the interest of the institution in maintaining security as paramount. By contrast, when considering challenges to forcible medication of pretrial detainees, the Court's concern for the fair trial rights guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment has seemingly led it to moderate its emphasis on security. However, this distinction is not stable and may in fact be breaking down, as the recent case of Jared Loughner demonstrates. This article discusses the various federal, state, and international legal standards applicable to both informed consent and forcible medication, and their implementation in the correctional setting, focusing on issues related to the United States.

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Accession: 036893182

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 23683884

DOI: 10.1016/j.ijlp.2013.04.001


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