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Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Inc.
A Voice for Private Physicians Since 1943
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AAPS Calls Ruling Shocking & Inhumane, Precedent for More Abuses


  • In March, 2002, a federal appeals court ruled that a defendant can be forcibly drugged even though he has not been convicted of any charges and poses no danger to himself or others.

  • (Eighth Circuit, U.S. v. C.T. Sell www.ca8.uscourts.gov/opndir/02/03/011862P.pdf)

  • The 2 - 1 split decision establishes government power to forcibly medicate a person with mind altering drugs.

  • Dr. Sell, a St. Louis dentist, has been imprisoned for more than 4 years, including one- and-one-half years in solitary confinement after he was charged with Medicaid fraud. He has never been brought to trial. During this time, hundreds of Medicaid patients have gone untreated.

  • While acknowledging that "the evidence does not support a finding that Sell posed a danger to himself or others" the majority opinion still found that "charges of fraud" alone are "serious" enough to justify forced medication. Further, the Court held that there are no limits on the quantity or type of drugs.

  • The dissenting opinion disagrees, stating "while the government possesses an interest in bringing a defendant to trial, I don not believe every charge is sufficient to force defendants to take medication."

  • The dissenting judge also pointed out that even if Dr. Sell were to be found guilty, his sentence would be no more than 41 months -- one year less than he's already served.

  • A similar case is pending before the same court to allow the State to forcibly medicate a convicted murderer for execution.

  • AAPS filed an amicus brief supporting Dr. Sell's appeal, and has filed a new motion for a re-hearing. The ACLU has also filed a brief in support of Dr. Sell.


  • This is a shocking, inhumane decision. Now, all the government needs are allegations and a cooperative psychiatrist to forcibly drug any citizen.

  • It is unprecedented to allow prosecutors to drug peaceful defendants presumed to be innocent. Government cannot force citizens to pledge allegiance to the flag, but now can forcibly medicate them with mind-altering drugs.

  • It's appalling that the court will drug a man presumed to be innocent, even while it is NOT legal to do the same to a convicted killer.


  • If a professional dedicated to treating poor patients in his dental practice can be targeted when he becomes a defendant charged with non-violent crime that could amount to just a few thousand dollars, this power could be exercised in thousands of cases. The potential for egregious civil liberties violations is unlimited.

  • In light of this court ruling, where does the power of the state stop on forcible drugging and mandatory medical treatment?

  • When does a medical issue rise to the level of a "public health emergency" justifying forcible drugging? Should a measles outbreak of a few dozen cases call for mandatory medication?

  • Is it an appropriate use of the state's power to allow CPS to forcibly medicate children against the parent's wishes? Several instances have been reported to AAPS, one from a woman who has fled the country rather than allow her child to be medicated with Ritalin.

  • What limits should be placed on the power of the state to forcibly medicate patients in the mental health system, whether through voluntary commitment or court rulings? What behaviors constitute symptoms of mental illness? Obesity? Smoking? Drinking?


Most states have laws on the books that enable health authorities to ensure that the mentally ill take their medications - drugs like Thorazine, Clozapine, and Haldol. Many times the drugging policy is couched in terms like "community-assisted treatment."

  • Review statutes in your state regarding powers of state agencies to forcibly administer or mandate drugs and other medical treatments to the mentally ill or others.

  • Review definitions of mentally ill and public health emergency.