Ohio Court Backs Forced Medication


Thursday, October 19th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A mentally ill person involuntarily committed to a treatment center can be ordered by a court to take anti-psychotic drugs if it is in the patient's best interest, the state Supreme Court ruled.

The unanimous decision said a court also can order medication if a patient lacks the capacity to give or withhold informed consent regarding treatment, and if a less intrusive treatment is unavailable.

Before Wednesday's decision, medical personnel could only forcibly medicate mentally ill people who posed an immediate danger to themselves or others.

The court ruled in the case of Jeffrey Steele, who appealed a 1997 request by the Hamilton County Community Mental Health Board to forcibly give him psychotropic or mind-altering drugs.

``We have attempted to craft a decision that acknowledges a person's right to refuse anti-psychotic medication, and yet recognizes that mental illness sometimes robs a person of the capacity to make informed treatment decisions,'' Justice Andrew Douglas wrote.

Steele was judged mentally ill and involuntarily hospitalized in August 1997, according to court documents. Seeking a legal standard for such cases, his lawyer, Shannon Smith, appealed the order to the Supreme Court even though Steele voluntarily began taking the drugs in 1998.

``I'm disappointed in the decision. I am encouraged by the fact they took a good hard look at it and now we have a standard,'' Smith said.

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On the Net:

Ohio Supreme Court: http://www.sconet.state.oh.us/