Using and Refusing Psychotropic Drugs

  • Nancy K. Rhoden
Part of the Contemporary Issues in Biomedicine, Ethics, and Society book series (CIBES)


Proponents of the decriminalization of marijuana have long argued that various constitutional guarantees, including the right to privacy, should protect the personal use of this relatively harmless drug. With a few notable exceptions, our courts have not agreed with this claim.1 But recently there has been a series of constitutional cases involving individual autonomy and drug use that might possibly expand the right of the individual to make such decisions. Specifically, several federal courts have recently held that patients in state mental hospitals have a constitutional right to refuse psychotropic (mind-altering) drugs.2


Supra Note Psychotropic Drug Legal Theory Recreational Drug Bodily Integrity 
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References and Notes

  1. 1.
    See Ravin v. State, 537 P.2d 494 (Alas. 1975), holding that the Alaska constitutional right to privacy in the home is violated by criminalization of private use of marijuana.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See, e.g., Davis v. Hubbard, 506 F. Supp. 915 (D. Ohio 1980); Rogers v. Okin, 478 F. Supp. 1342 (D. Mass. 1979), aff’d 634 F.2d 650 (1st Cir. 1980), remanded for consideration of state law, 457 U.S. 291 (1982); Rennie v. Klein, 653 F. 2d 836 (3d Cir. 1981), remanded for further consideration, 102 S. Ct. 3506 (1982).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Davis v. Hubbard, 506 F. Supp. 915.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See Beauchamp & Childress, Principles of Biomedical Ethics 63 (1979); Veatch, “Three Theories of Informed Consent,” in The Belmont Report,Appendix Vol. II, at 26–19 (National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, 1978).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    US 479 (1965)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    See, e.g., Loving v. Virginia, 388 US 1 (1967); Roe v. Wade, 410 US 113 (1973); Carey v. Population Services International, 431 US 678 (1977).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    US 113, 152–53.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    US 113, 213.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Rogers v. Okin, 478 F. Supp. 1342. The circuit court based its affirmance entirely on the right to privacy, and declined to consider whether protected First Amendment interests were involved. The first amendment rationale had previously been enunciated in Kaimowitz v. Dept. of Mental Health, 2 Prison Law Rptr. 433 (1973), a case involving psychosurgery.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    F. Supp. at 1366–67.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    This theory was originally promulgated by M. Shapiro in “The Use of Behavior Control Technologies: A Response,” 7 Issues in Criminology 55 (1972) and later elaborated upon in “Legislating the Control of Behavior Control: Autonomy and the Coercive Use of Organic Therapies, 47 S. Cal. L. Rev. 237 (1974).Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    See Rhoden, “The Right to Refuse Psychotropic Drugs,” 15 Harv. Civ. Rts-Civ. Libs. L. Rev. 363 (1980).Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    See Rutherford v. United States, 438 F. Supp. 1287, 1298–1300 (W.D. Okla. 1977), aff’d 582 F.2d 1234 (10th Cir. 1978). After a complicated procedural history, this decision was ultimately reversed. 442 US 544 (1979). See also Carnohan v. United States, 616 F.2d 1120 (9th Cir. 1980 ); Rizzo v. United States, 432 F. Supp. 356 (EDNY 1977).Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Note, “The Right to Choose an Unproven Method of Treatment,” 13 Loyola L.A. L. Rev. 227, 234 (1979).Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    See Comment, “The Uncertain Application of the Right of Privacy in Personal Medical Decisions: The Laetrile Cases,” 42 Ohio St. L. J. 523, 530 (1981).Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    See, e.g., United States v. Randall, 104 Daily Wash. L. Rptr. at 2249. See generally “State Interference with Personhood: The Privacy Right, Necessity Defense and Proscribed Medical Therapies,” 10 Pacific L.J. 773 (1979).Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    See “State Interference,” supra note 16, at 795.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    P.2d 366, 369 (1975).Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    P.2d 494, 502.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    See Borras v. State, 229 So.2d 244 (Fla. 1969), upholding marijuana prohibition on the grounds that the state has a valid interest in having healthy citizens, and that marijuana use is a threat to society in general as well as being harmful to individuals.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    See, e.g., American Motorcycle Ass’n v. Davids, 11 Mich. App. 351, 158 N.W.2d 72 (1968), cert. denied 393 U.S. 1037 (1969) (overturning motorcycle helmet requirement).Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville, 405 US 156 (1972).Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    See Comment, “Picking Your Poison: The Drug Efficacy Requirement and the Right of Privacy,” 25 UCLA L. Rev. 577, 613–15 (1978).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Humana Press Inc. 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nancy K. Rhoden

There are no affiliations available

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