Medicate to Executive: Should we be Allowed to Force Inmates to Take Medicine in Order to Execute Them?

Cliff Roberson, Washburn University

In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the execution of an insane inmate violated the U.S. Const. amend. VIII. The Court has also held that inmates may be forced to take anti psychotic medications in some situations, e.g., to ensure they are competent to stand trial. The Court has not ruled on whether prisoners may be medicated for the sole purpose of making them competent to be executed. The paper discusses the legal and ethical issues involved in forcing inmates on death row to take anti psychotic medications. The paper will also look at the ramifications of the February 2003 U.S. Court of Appeals case involving the 6-5 decision of that court which was the first by a federal appeals court to allow such medication.

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Updated 05/20/2006