New Jersey is being sued by Disability Rights New Jersey, that state’s protection and advocacy agency, over the issue of forced psychiatric drugging. The matter was reported in a New York Times story, New Jersey Is Sued Over the Forced Medication of Patients at Psychiatric Hospitals.
Patient advocates filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday charging that New Jersey psychiatric hospitals routinely medicate patients against their will without a review by an outside arbiter, a practice that is banned in most other states.
This is an issue that advocates in other states need to pay close attention to as there is always the possibility of doing something more to improve the human and civil rights situation of people incarcerated in the mental health/illness system on the local level whereever they reside.
Twenty-nine states require a judge’s ruling for involuntary medication, according to the suit, including New York, Connecticut and other large states, like California, Florida and Texas. Five other states leave the decision to an individual or panel outside the hospital. Some states also provide an advocate to represent a patient in a hearing on forced medication.
When the process is completely an inside job, and no independent evaluation is required, rules (i.e. laws) often go by the wayside.
The suit, filed in Federal District Court in Trenton by the group Disability Rights New Jersey, seeks a court order requiring the state to provide judicial review of involuntary medication. It notes that a prison inmate has more power to contest treatment decisions than a psychiatric patient.
The last line here says it all. A person adjudged mentally ill, and placed in a psychiatric institution, has fewer rights than a person who has been found guilty of breaking the laws of the land by a jury of his or her peers.
Apparently, people in the mental health/illness system have a long ways to go before their rights as citizens and, therefore, full and equal human beings, are recognized.
Anybody taking notes!?