State Supreme Court Rules Parolees With Mental Illnesses May Refuse Medication
Prisoners with mental illnesses who are receiving treatment in state hospitals after completing their sentences have the right to refuse psychiatric medications unless a judge finds them incapable of making an informed decision or "recent incidents show they are dangerous to themselves or others," the state Supreme Court ruled on Monday in a 6-1 decision, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The ruling affects more than 800 ex-convicts held in state mental hospitals under the 1986 Mentally Disordered Offender Act, which requires prisoners who were convicted of violent crimes related to mental disorders and judged a danger to society to receive psychiatric treatment during and after their parole. Justice Carlos Moreno wrote in the majority opinion that under state law, any competent adult, including a prison inmate or a patient under the Mentally Disordered Offender Act, has the right to refuse medical treatment, adding that state law gives patients covered by the act the same rights to forego medication as other involuntary mental patients who have not been convicted of crimes (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/6). However, Justice Janice Rogers Brown wrote in the dissenting opinion that the ruling would subject patients who refuse antipsychotic medication "to indefinite commitment with little prospect of rehabilitation, exactly the type of warehousing the Legislature sought to avoid," the AP/San Jose Mercury News reports (Kravets, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 1/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.