February 08, 2006

Debate on Treating Mentally Ill

Covering an important issue for families of people who have schizophrenia (as well as those who have schizophrenia), the New York Times reported today:

Against the vivid backdrop of recent killings by mentally ill people, both sides in the national debate over whether mentally ill people who have not committed a crime can be forced into treatment are preparing for a showdown in the Legislature here.

New Mexico lawmakers are considering a bill, backed by Gov. Bill Richardson, that would make the state the 43rd with a law allowing family members, doctors or others to seek a court order forcing the mentally ill into outpatient treatment. Typically under the laws, if mentally ill people refuse the treatment, they can face confinement in a hospital.

Across the country, proponents have pushed the laws as a pragmatic approach to the mentally ill who fall through the cracks of the mental health system, particularly those who have committed no crime but could harm themselves or others as their sickness worsens. These mentally ill people often do not need to be in a hospital, but do need to stick to treatment, which could include medication, therapy or both.

"We are talking about a small group of people who do not get help because they don't want help or know they need help," Mary T. Zdanowicz, executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center, based in Virginia, said in a break from lobbying lawmakers here.

See full story (free registration required): Killings Loom Over Debate on Treating Mentally Ill


I think that perhaps individuals should be strongly encouraged, or pursuaded, but I believe that because mentally ill people need to be encouraged to be honest with therapists, which is a difficult thing to do for many, that force will only result in less openness. As it is, it is very hard to predict future actions of anyone, including the mentally ill. If they are capable, that is, they are not under guardianship, then, it would be difficult to institutionalize care for them. The mentally retarded also may be difficult to prevent from harming themselves or inadvertently creating a danger that may involve others, but if they are not under the care of another, it would be incorrect to force them into an institutionalized setting or control their personally guaranteed constitutional freedoms. Likewise, lower IQ people or lower emotionally intelligent people, or people with bad tempers, might be prone to certain societal risks, but it would be unconstitutional to infringe upon the integrity of their personal liberty. I feel the same way about forced treatment, unless there is a clear and present danger, with some sort of statistical probability plus a set of arguable facts and circumstances that give a clear evidentiary proof. I also believe that the person, even if all this were true, is entitled to due process.

Posted by: zanonymousz at February 16, 2006 07:41 PM

Post a comment

Please enter this code to enable your comment -
Remember Me?
(you may use HTML tags for style)
* indicates required