Friday, February 15, 2008

Forcing Medication

I’ve been re-running these Prozac Palace posts with the hope that anyone who needs to read this sort of thing will find them. It’s occurred to me that readers may wish to comment, but not know what to say. You’re under no obligation to say anything. If you want to, but are at a loss, may I suggest this simple phrase: I read it.

From Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Forcing Medication

I wrote recently about the “can’t help it” excuse for letting the mentally ill get away with their behaviors, especially when it’s their excuse for not taking their meds.

What is the solution?

I have no clue.

We can’t force the mentally ill to take their medicine. It’s no different than forcing a treatment on a physically ill person against his or her will. If I needed a life-saving operation and chose instead to thumb my nose at surgery and go off into the bush to die, then no one could legally stop me. I’m a grown woman and it’s my choice.

I don’t want live in a world where treatment is forced on anyone. Such legislation is immoral. The potential for abuse is terrifying.

Can you imagine being compelled by law to take medical treatment? What if you want alternate therapy but someone in your family decided you shouldn’t have it? You could be forced to go to a medical doctor and undergo chemical therapy or surgery against your will. You’d lose control of your life and give control of your body to someone else who claims to have your best interests at heart.

Canada already has legislation allowing for the courts to order medical treatment of minors. Members of the Jehovah’s Witness faith have been forced to accept blood transfusions in direct opposition of their faith and their personal desires.

The argument is the procedure was life saving, but it is still an example of government interfering in your wishes and I can’t bring myself to support it.

Yes, those are fine words. I stand behind them. But to be absolutely honest with you, there are days when I wish such measures were in place to force my sister to keep taking her medication.

What do you think? Should mentally ill persons be forced by law to take their properly prescribed prescription drugs? Should they be forced into treatment? Is it wrong? Is it right? Or should we just let them make up their own minds?

10 comments:

Holly said...

Wow! Tough call! How would you enforce it anyway? The prescription police would have to show up at your door every morning and night to ensure you took the stuff they ordered you to take.

Leah J.Utas said...

Hello Holly - It would be difficult, but when a mentally ill person goes to Emergency for some real or perceived health problem perhaps medication could be administered then.
In a quasi-ideal world, the person would be kept in the hospital for 30 days for observation and given meds that way.
That said, I am not comfortable with forcing meds on anyone, but some days...

the Bag Lady said...

Yes, very tough call. So many implications...if we are allowed to force medication on people who need it, what's to stop us from forcing medication on people who DON'T need it? A similar situation arises with people being kept on life-support for years and years because their loved ones don't want to let go of them.
There is no simple answer to this (and many other) truly complex issues.

Leah J.Utas said...

dfBag Lady - Yes, once we start down the slope of forcing meds, we won't stop.
Interesting point about life support. It really doesn't serve any purpose if the life supportee has no chance of recovering consciousness. Just because we can do something, it doesn't mean we should be doing it.

Crabby McSlacker said...

I'm not sure what the answer is either. But I do think that improving mental health resources need to be vastly improved. Perhaps even including sometimes involuntary confinement for those who are a danger to themselves and others. (This happens in theory where I live, but not in practice.)

I know it sounds draconian, but some people really are not safe out on their own. And the threat of returning to a supervised psychiatric facility if one gets too out of control might be an incentive to stay on meds.

I may sound way out in left (or rather right) field on this one, but I think the current system is failing a lot of people.

However, I'm talking about people who are worse off than your sister. We have lots of untreated schizophrenics where I live (near Berkeley CA) and some of them really need help even if they don't want it.

Leah J.Utas said...

Crabby - The current system is failing everyone. Those who need supervision in some form are simply not getting it, or if they are it is woefully inadequate.

Reb said...

It is such a slippery slope! Once you allow the PTB to force one person to take medication, what is to stop them from forcing the next person to do something that is not for their benefit, but just to make them conform to society.

That being said, our health care does need a good kick in the pants, they need to provide better care for the people that need it.

Leah J.Utas said...

Reb - It's the enforced conformity that scares me no end.

You're right. Health care needs a good, swift kick.

boots586 said...

This article is so topical this week. The young man who shot the students at Northern Illinois University had recently taken himself off his meds.

Leah J.Utas said...

Hello Boots586. I didn't know that about the shooter.
It certainly makes for a compelling argument for forced meds, but I don't like where that would take us.