Stripping Doctors of Police Powers

Peter Stastny, M.D., Kathy Flaherty, J.D., and Ruth Lowenkron, Esq.

What would happen if doctors were to be relieved by law of the powers to detain, restrain and forcibly medicate individuals with purported psychosocial disabilities, even in emergencies? The panelists will discuss this scenario based on US and international law and ethics, offer examples where such legal changes have been nearly implemented, and outline rights-based alternatives that would apply to most of such situations. For the rest, when imminent danger seems obvious, a discussion of legal and non-medical alternatives including supported decision-making and preventive, court ordered detention will be considered. The session will involve a presentation of the panelists’ research and experiences, as well as an extensive interactive discussion.

Learning objectives:

  1. Understanding the legal and ethical lay-of-the-land that empowers doctors to exert police powers in the course of their medical duties.
  2. Getting a broad sense of US and international efforts of relieving doctors and in particular psychiatrists, of these coercive powers
  3. Jointly imagining a world where doctors are restricted to helping patients and where risk management is replaced by supported decision making and due process legal proceedings.