Due process on mental illness
February 21. 2018 10:20PM
To the Editor: The confessed Florida shooter had a troubled family history and posted many comments about violence on social media before shooting at least 17 people. Some are saying that our authorities should have stopped him, but he had no criminal history. Should we lock people up because they might do something?
We’re heading that way. Massachusetts jailed a pregnant women because they thought she’d killed her two previous newborns but had no proof. We put released sexual offenders on “don’t live near schools or parks” lists because they “might” offend again.
On the subject of guns, even the NRA agrees that mentally ill or suicidal people shouldn’t have guns, but the devil is in the details. The only question in mental illness is, “Who has the authority to force someone to take a medication the person is violently opposed to taking?” If you answer that, all else falls into place, including forcing the homeless into shelters.
New Hampshire found that wealthy persons were being disproportionately declared incompetent because heirs wanted their money. The law changed. A court can appoint a guardian, but the court must appoint an attorney whose task is to argue as vehemently and as factually as possible that the person is competent. If this argument fails, the guardian is appointed with power to administer medication forcibly.
Is this enough due process? Whom would you trust to order that you take medicine you don’t want to take or to spend your money in ways you didn’t like?