Brittanys Policy Paper

Brittany Frisch
Dr. Robson
February 2008

Policy for Terminating Forced Psychiatric Medications on Criminal Defendant’s Awaiting Trial

In accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on March 3, 2003(institute for health) the state of Iowa should discontinue forcing defendants in criminal trials who have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder to take antipsychotic medications because it is a violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights and it can hinder the defendants’ performance at trial. At the moment the state of Iowa can offer a variety of medical and legal reasons to forcibly medicate a defendant (Kathy Swedlow). This document will show that there is no legal or medical reason that any defendant who has not been found guilty of a crime should be forced to take medication.
Involuntary medication disregards the constitutional rights of the defendants’. In many cases the first, fifth, and sixth amendments are violated. The first amendment is the freedom of religious expression (U.S. Constitution). The fifth amendment among other things states that no one shall be deprived of life or liberty without the due process of law (Find Law). And the sixth amendment states,” In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed” (Find Law). In criminal trial’s where the defendants’ are forcibly being medicated these previously stated amendments are being violated. Constitutional principles also provides defendants’ with “bodily autonomy and integrity as well as freedom from bodily intrusions.” (Wettstein,2003) When a patient is forced to take medications the physician and the court are violating the defendants’ constitutional rights as well as disregarding laws set in place to protect the defendants’. (Signorelli, 2007)
Forcing medication on psychiatric patients can also hinder their abilities. Taking psychiatric medications have a wide variety of symptoms and problems that can arise from taking the medication. According to the Center of Cognitive Liberty and Ethics (CCLE), “The side effects of antipsychotic drugs can be so agonizing that patients often find them harder to bear than their illness. Therefore even people whose illness causes them to behave irrationally can have very rational reasons for refusing these drugs” (Institute for health). Psychiatric medications can also hinder patients’ “exogenous mind, thoughts, and behavioral control” (Wettstein, 2003). Also, every drug has its own short term or long term effects that can participate in hindering the defendant of the antipsychotic drug (Zimmer 1999). Many patients who take psychiatric drugs become depressed and commit suicide. (Psychiatric Information, 2006)
For the reasons previously stated the state of Iowa should discontinue forcing defendants in criminal trials who have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder to take antipsychotic medications. This policy is only recommended for defendants facing trial and will not apply to prisoners found guilty in a court of law. The policy will not discourage defendants from seeking treatment if diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder and will in fact allow those defendants who want medication to receive treatment. According to this policy defendants with psychiatric disorders will be allowed to have a fair trial in accordance with the 1st, 5th, and 6th amendments. It also allows the fair treatment of defendants from the side effects of the psychotropic drugs that could hinder their abilities to function appropriately during trial. With this policy in place funding for enforcement and medications will amply be reduced. There will be no need for medical enforcement on the defendant because the defendant will not be taking any medication against his or her will. This policy will also limit the use of medications because the funding that is previously in place will be reduced adequately (Ibson, 2003). For those cases in which the court feels that the defendant is not competent to stand trial the defendant will be notified of the courts awareness and given the opportunity to receive fair medical treatment. In the case that the defendant does not accept treatment the court will continue without prejudice.
The Supreme Court has already limited the efforts to forcibly medicate defendants’ facing trial in a 6 to 3 ruling stating the lower courts were wrong in approving forced medication solely to render a defendant competent(Mears 2003). The Supreme Court has now set in place 4 rules to follow in forcing medication on a defendant. First, special circumstances must be considered. Second, the government must prove that medication will render the defendants’ competent to stand trial with no side effects that could possibly hinder the defendant ability in conducting a defense. Third, the court must decide that other treatments will not achieve the same results. And finally the medication issued needs to be medically appropriate to the defendants’ illness. (Psychiatric Services)
In Conclusion based on the support of the Supreme Court and the evidence the state of Iowa should discontinue forcing defendants in criminal trials who have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder to take antipsychotic medications.

1. Institute for health. (2003, May 22). Is forced medication constitutional. Retrieved 2008, from
2. Ibson, Ralph. (October 2003). Access to mentally health care: a civil rights issue. Virtual Mentor, 5(10).
3. Find Law. U.S. Constitution. Retrieved February 21, 2008, from
4. Mears, Bill. (2003, June 16). Supreme court limits forced medication of non violent defendants. Retrieved February 21, 2008, from
5. Psychiatric Information. (2008, January 23). The truth about psychiatric drugs and therapy. Retrieved 2006, from
6. Psychiatric Services. (August 2003). U.S. supreme court ruling affirms strict criteria for involuntary medication of defendants to gain competency. Retrieved February 4, 2008, from
7. Signorelli, D. D. & Mohaupt, S. (2007, May 1). Informed Consent and Civil Commitment in Emergency Psychiatry. Medicolegal Issues, p. 38.
8. Swedlow, Kathy. (February 2003). Forced medication of legally incompetent prisoners: a primer. Retrieved February 20, 2008, from
9. Wettstein, R. M. (October 2003). Psychotropic Medications and Criminal Defendants. Virtual Mentor, 5(10).
10. Zimmer, G. (2008, January 23). Psychiatric Drugs: Types, Side-Effects, Dangers and Permanent Damage. Retrieved January 23, 2008, from

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License