March 24, 2002 - News from the Association of American Physicians & Surgeons

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    WASHINGTON -- Mar 8 -- Defendants can be forcibly drugged even though they haven't been convicted of any charges and pose no danger to themselves or others.

    That's the ruling issued yesterday by the Federal Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in the case of United States v. Charles Thomas Sell. (see http://www.ca8.uscourts.gov/opndir/02/03/011862P.pdf)
The 2 - 1 split decision establishes government power to forcibly medicate a person with mind altering drugs even before trial. "It's a shocking, inhumane decision. Now, all the government needs are
allegations and a cooperative psychiatrist to forcibly drug any citizen," said Andrew Schlafly, General Counsel for the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). That group filed an amicus
brief opposing the government drugging. "It's unprecedented to allow prosecutors to drug peaceful defendants presumed to be innocent. Government cannot force citizens to pledge allegiance to the flag, but now can forcibly medicate them with mind-altering drugs," said Mr. Schlafly.

    Dr. Sell, a St. Louis dentist, has been imprisoned for more than 4 years, including one- and-one-half years in solitary confinement after being charged with Medicaid fraud. He has never been brought to trial.
While acknowledging that "the evidence does not support a finding that Sell posed a danger to himself or others" the majority opinion still found that "charges of fraud" alone are "serious" enough to justify
forced medication. Further, the Court held that there are no limits on the quantity or type of drugs.
"There's no good reason why Dr. Sell has been held so long without trial, and this decision will most likely prolong his imprisonment with no end in sight," said Mr. Schlafly. The dissenting judge pointed out
that even if Dr. Sell were to be found guilty, his sentence would be no more than 41 months -- one year less than he's already served.

    A similar case is pending before the same court to allow the State to forcibly medicate a convicted murderer for execution. "It's appalling that the court will drug a man presumed to be innocent,
even if it's illegal to do the same thing to a convicted killer." Mr. Schlafly said that AAPS will seek to overturn the ruling.

AAPS is a non-partisan, dues-supported professional association of physicians in all practices and specialties, dedicated since 1943 to protecting the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship from
third-party interference.