Court Rules Jared Lee Loughner Can Refuse Anti-Psychotic Medication

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"Generally, the courts have given deference to a prisoner's, patient's 'dangerousness' as a rationale for forced medication," Guyer says.

Those opposed to the drugs point out that the patient often suffers severe side effects and the drugs are not guaranteed to alter the behavior.

But Dr. Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, believes that even though such medication could eventually make Loughner mentally fit to face a potential trial and death penalty sentence, he should be medicated.

"At the end of the day what has to drive decision making regarding Jared Loughner is not his trial or what he has alleged to have done, it's right now if he is a threat to himself and others in the eyes of his doctors. Then he deserves the ability to try the medication."

Guyer agrees that in Loughner's case the threshold question will be whether Loughner is currently considered dangerous.

"If the defendant is found dangerous, the government can avoid" a formal hearing, he says. "The initial forced medication jousting will turn on whether the defendant is presently dangerous. Mental health experts are notoriously unreliable in predicting dangerousness and so courts may require clear evidence of present dangerousness."

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