Seeking a Sane Solution: Reevaluating Interests in Forcibly Medicating Criminal Defendants to Trial Competency

The forcible medication of incompetent criminal defendants involves complex legal and ethical issues. The Supreme Court has recognized the significant liberty interest of an individual to be free from unwanted medication. Governments can forcibly medicate non-dangerous detainees to trial competency only after proving the medication will further significant government interests, is medically appropriate, and is necessary. Because the standard for medicating a dangerous detainee is easier to meet, governments can alternatively medicate defendants to competency upon a showing of dangerousness. This Note discusses the different levels of protection afforded to dangerous and non-dangerous detainees and the implications of these two standards. It reevaluates liberty and government interests in light of the likely outcomes of a decision under current doctrine and concludes that preserving the right of a mentally disordered person to refuse treatment should not be balanced merely against the government interest in bringing the accused to trial, but also against the government interests in alleviating suffering, respecting life, and the personal autonomy sacrificed to the disease by refusing treatment.