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Right to Refuse Psychotropic Medications

By definition, psychotropic medications are medications that affect mental and behavioral processes. They are commonly administered in mental health treatment settings and have been subject to controversy regarding informed consent, consideration of potentially disruptive side effects, and patients’ right to refuse medication. Historically, individuals involuntarily committed to mental health institutions were by proxy deemed incompetent to make decisions regarding treatment and thus forcibly medicated as common medical practice. In the 1970s and 1980s, however, this was challenged in a number of legal cases as a violation of basic constitutional rights.

Common and Constitutional Law

Common law origins in the right to refuse psychotropic medication include considerations of state authority versus liberties of the individual. On the one hand, states are granted parens patriae and police power, ...

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