Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Comment On Forcing Care On The Mentally Ill

Today's story in the Washington Post, and headlined on today's MSNBC web site, about New York State's so called 'Kendra's Law', should disturb all Americans due to the invasion of individual rights to privacy it envisions and enacts, as well as the opening of an entirely new Pandora's Box.

While not in total disagreement with the premise of the law, which I'm sure was intended to stop violent mentally ill people from committing the horror show that took place at Virginia Tech, there seems to this writer to be a slippery slope that we are heading down when it comes to the force of law being behind what has always been, and should always rightly be, the individual's right to choose his or her own health care, or on the flip side of that coin, no health care at all.

Take for instance the recent rulings in Texas, wherein teenage girls are now forced by law to receive an unproven inoculation against certain types of cervical cancer. Since when does our government get the chutzpah to openly force experimental drugs on the public at large? Have our drug companies become so powerful that they are now running amok and being allowed to run human trials on the public?

Understanding full well the need to make sure that violent person's do not commit atrocities, we must consider the fact that there are already laws on the books in every state that gives police and doctors the ability to hospitalize a person who exhibits what a rational person would consider dangerous behaviour, whether to themselves or to others. A family member may even get a court order to force the person into a hospital.

Today's story, while extolling the virtues of New York's law, and concentrating on the case of one woman who feels she was helped by being forced into treatment, also tells us that now the State of Virginia is considering the passage of similar legislation. It makes one shudder to think of the implications and the potential for abuse that lies at the bottom of this particular rabbit hole. Don't like your neighbor? Call the authorities and complain that he or she is exhibiting signs of violent mental illness. Speak out against the run amok government? Why, you must be disturbed, and therefore forced into treatment! Without trying to bring up a particular theme over and over, I seem to remember another country that took up this practice about 60 years ago. Try and guess who they were.

This trend needs to be reversed, not encouraged, for if it's not, it can and will only lead to more Big Brother activity in the individual's daily life. And before you say that our government only has our best interests at heart, take a good hard look at what has happened over just these past few years and tell yourself that statement again. What we most certainly do not need is more government control over our lives and this most definitely would fall under that category.

And again, while sympathetic to what the intent of these laws may start out to be, the risk and potential for abuse of the very same laws is so great, that they must be repealed or at the very least, challenged in court. Here's an example of why.

The State of Nevada has, arguably the worst mental health care system in the nation. In places like Las Vegas, mental health advocates have been fighting an uphill and never ending battle for the city to increase it's capacity to house patients who need inpatient care. While a recent facility opening added some bed space, it is woefully inadequate to deal with a city the size of Las Vegas, whose flashing lights draw many a strange character. Most patients that are suicidal or even dangerous to others may spend 3 to 4 days in hospital emergency rooms due to the lack of available beds in crisis centers. The rest of the state is in even worse shape. So what would happen if Nevada had a law such as those being proposed? Where would they house these people? That's right. The only other option to comply with the laws that mandate the locking up of mentally ill people would be the jails. Do we really want to go down that road?

Because where that road leads to next would be the vision of people like Mike Huckabee, who wanted to lock up all AIDS patients. Who gets to decide who gets locked up?

There are already calls in New York for the repealing of Kendra's Law, as cases of abuse are already cropping up. There are several lawsuits in play by the families of people who were court ordered into treatment that no one felt that they needed, and the harm that was caused to them by the forced taking of psychotropic drugs that caused irreversible personality disorders. One has to begin to wonder exactly who is really behind the pushing of these laws. Is it truly well meaning citizens? Or is it actually the major drug manufacturers looking for yet another way to drum up business? Some of the major lobbyists pushing for the enactment of these laws are, you guessed it, the drug companies.

No. In this writer's mind, this is a dangerous trend and must be stopped dead in it's tracks, or the next case that gets decided may be yours or mine. Batmanchester

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