I just read an article on the FOX News website entitled, “Judge Rules Prison Doctors Can Forcibly Medicate Loughner.” The article says that the key question is whether prison officials or a judge should decide whether Loughner should be forcibly medicated.
Loughner’s attorneys also are fighting the forced medication at the 9th Circuit. The key question is whether prison officials or a judge should decide whether a mentally ill person who poses a danger in prison should be forcibly medicated. Prosecutors say the decision is for prison officials to make, while Loughner’s lawyers say it’s up to a judge.
My immediate thought was “Shouldn’t the doctors be deciding that?” and “Why would Loughner’s attorneys be fighting against the forced medication?”
A study published last week entitled “Comparative efficacy and acceptability of antimanic drugs in acute mania: a multiple-treatments meta-analysis” (Cipriani et al The Lancet 17 Aug 2011) reviewed many previous trials of medications for mania. It looked at results for any of the following medications: Aripiprazole (Abilify) , asenapine (Saphris), carbamazepine (Tegretol) , valproate (Depakote) , gabapentin (Neurontin), haloperidol (Haldol), Lamotrigine (Lamictal), lithium, Olanzapine (Zyprexa), quetiapine (Seroquel), risperidone (Risperdal) , topiramate (Topamax), and Ziprasidone (Geodon).
We distinguish between mental and physical illness. Why? Many illnesses we consider physical have a mental component, including ulcers, asthma, hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome, heart disease, urticaria (hives), and sexual dysfunction. And the illnesses we consider mental all have a physical aspect to them, namely the brain. Yes, the brain is physical. It’s not just some nebulous collection of emotions, thoughts, and brain waves concentrated in a person’s head. In addition, some so-called mental illnesses – anorexia, for instance – have readily observable physical symptoms.
Whenever we use the phrase “mental illness,” regardless of whether we intend to do so, we reinforce the false dichotomy of mental vs. physical, mind vs. body. This leads many people to question whether brain dysfunctions such as depression and bipolar disorder are truly illnesses, even when they have no trouble recognizing that that certain so-called mental illnesses, such as autism, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s are physical.
Several weeks ago, the British Psychological Society published a report online entitled “Understanding Bipolar Disorder.” (You can download the 88-page report for free; although you must go through the purchase process to “buy” it, you’re charged nothing for it. According to BPSShop.org.uk, the report will be available for free “for a limited period.”)
Although the report doesn’t make any groundbreaking revelations, it does contain some important reminders, including the following: