Compulsory medication muddies gunman trial issue

Andy Coghlan

Can it be right – or even possible – to forcibly "cure" a person of mental illness so that they can stand trial and potentially be sentenced to death? That’s become a major talking point in the US, where a three-judge federal panel in Pasadena, California, is set to decide whether or not doctors in Springfield, Missouri, can continue to forcibly dispense antipsychotic medicines to Jared Lee Loughner, who on 8 January shot and killed six people and injured 13, including Democrat congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Following a flurry of legal action over the past fortnight which initially resulted in a ruling to forcibly medicate Loughner, his defence attorneys successfully argued last week for a temporary halt while the judges consider their appeal case.

Soon after his arrest, Loughner was diagnosed with severe schizophrenia and declared unfit to stand trial. Since then, he has been in a prison hospital.

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