Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Can the State Legally Medicate Kids Into Vegetative States?

This is a new one to me.In Alsaka, and maybe elsewhere, the State is drugging children that come under their control without consent of parents or the children themselves.

The website Furious Seasons reportsin Alaska And Gov. Sarah Palin Sued Over Drugging Kids:
A lawsuit was filed yesterday in an Alaska superior court seeking to stop the de facto forced medication of children under the state's care (foster kids, juvenile detainees) and children covered under state health programs with psychiatric medications. Named as defendants were the State of Alaska, Gov. Sarah Palin and a host of officials with various state agencies. The suit was filed by Psych Rights, the Alaska-based mental health law project, which has vigorously fought the forced drugging of adults in the state's psychiatric hospital. Jim Gottstein, the president of the group, was instrumental two years ago in ensuring that the leaked Zyprexa court documents reached the public. A press release from Psych Rights can be found here.

The lawsuit is sweeping and seeks to go after the age-old practice of giving psych meds to children and teens in the custody or care of various state programs, at times without the knowledge of the children's parents (if there are any) and without the informed consent of the child or teen. Gottstein argues in his filing (2.2 MB .pdf here) that such practices violate the constitutional rights of children. I'm not going to put on a law class here (to the degree that I could), but here are some snippets from the suit.

Gottstein wrote to Gov. Palin in February 2008:

"It is a huge betrayal of trust for the State to take custody of children and youth and then subject them to such harmful, often life-ruining, drugs. They have almost always already been subjected to abuse or otherwise had very difficult lives before the State assumes custody, and then saddles them with a mental illness diagnosis and drugs them. The extent of this State inflicted child abuse is an emergency and should be corrected immediately. Children and youth are virtually always forced to take these drugs because, with rare exception, it is not their choice. PsychRights believes the children and youth, themselves, have the legal right to not be subject to such harmful treatment at the hands of the State of Alaska. We are therefore evaluating what legal remedies might be available to them. However, instead of going down that route, it would be my great preference to be able to work together to solve this problem. It is for this reason that I am reaching out to you again on this issue."

Gottstein got a mealy-mouthed answer to this letter from an agency head, but there's no indication that Palin, who is Sen. John McCain's vice-presidential choice and quite the advocate for families, ever saw the letter. There was no response from her office. I'm not criticizing Palin, but am simply noting the irony that she's named in this lawsuit given her sudden emergence on the national political scene.

In his filing, Gottstein notes that over 4,500 Alaska children and teens were being given various psych meds under the state's Medicaid program.

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