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News of the Day ... In Perspective

08/1/2006

Forced drugging stayed

On July 25, a Virginia judge ruled that 16-year-old Abraham Cherrix will not be forced to undergo another round of chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s disease, pending a trial on Aug 16.

The boy has already undergone four rounds of chemotherapy, suffering life-threatening toxicity without achieving a complete remission of the disease. With the support of his parents, he chose to reject further conventional therapy in favor of an alternative treatment offered by a clinic in Mexico. In a brief filed with the Circuit Court, Virginia Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell argued: “It is a long-recognized principle that parents act in the best interest of their children.” This right, however, is “not absolute,” noted Amy McGuire, a specialist in medical ethics at Baylor College of Medicine in Dallas (Jerry Markon, Washington Post 7/26/06).

In another type of forced drugging—of patients alleged to be incompetent based on a psychiatric condition rather than age—the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed that the forced administration of psychotropic drugs is unconstitutional in the case of Myers v. Alaska Psychiatric Institute.

The court held that “in the absence of an emergency, the court may not authorize the state to administer psychotropic drugs to a non-consenting mental patient unless the court determines that the medication is in the best interests of the patient and that no less intrusive alternative treatment is available.” Courts will have to consider safety and effectiveness of the drugs in determining whether they are in the patient’s best interest (Law Project for Psychiatric Rights, http://psychrights.org).

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