The Greater Good

What are the limits that the State can do claiming “The Greater Good?”

Strict scrutiny is a form of judicial review that courts use to determine the constitutionality of certain laws. To pass a strict scrutiny review, the legislature must have passed the law to further a “compelling governmental interest,” and must have narrowly tailored the law to achieve that interest.

The concept of “strict scrutiny” arises from the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which states, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The situations we are considering here are any attempts by the legislature to require that a child or adult be forced to take psychotropic drugs, or indeed to be forced to accept any kind of psychiatric treatment, including involuntary commitment.

There are not many issues in the field of mental hygiene law which raise more controversy than that of involuntary commitment and treatment. The courts have unequivocally recognized that involuntary treatment, meaning involuntary or “civil” commitment and enforced drugging, by the government is a substantial deprivation of liberty, and therefore falls under the aegis of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, there has continued to be a legal erosion of this principle by passing laws stipulating the rules of due process in such cases, all intended to give the State more power to enforce their own considerations of what is the greater good.

Missouri Revised Statutes Chapter 632 Section 300 is an example. To paraphrase,  if a mental health coordinator has reasonable cause to believe, as the result of personal observation or investigation, that the likelihood of serious harm by a person to himself or others as a result of a mental disorder is imminent unless the person is immediately taken into custody, the mental health coordinator must request a peace officer to take the person into custody and transport them to a mental health facility.

We no longer have any compelling governmental interest, since it is one person’s judgment or opinion, not the government’s; and the due process of law in this case is just one person’s judgment or opinion, sanctioned by a law that clearly was tailored to bypass strict scrutiny.

The fact that these actions are couched in such doublespeak as “to prevent him from committing harm” is unfortunate, for it hides the evil intention to incapacitate the individual.

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