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San Diego Law Review





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Involuntary medical treatment potentially compromises several individual constitutional interests. However, like all individual constitutional rights, rights under both the Due Process Clause and the Fourth Amendment can be outweighed by sufficiently important governmental interests.

To determine whether involuntary medical treatment violates the Due Process Clause, courts ask whether the government’s interest that the treatment advances is important enough to justify compromising the individual’s interest in making an autonomous decision to refuse medical treatment. Involuntary treatment must also be medically appropriate, but any physical harms that the treatment might cause are not balanced directly against the government’s interest.

When the government seeks to administer involuntary antipsychotic medications to an incompetent criminal defendant, the Due Process Clause analysis inadequately protects the defendant’s interest in being free from physical harms that are not justified by the government’s interest in rendering him competent to stand trial. Examination of several right to refuse treatment cases and analysis of the government’s interest in rendering criminal defendants competent to stand trial shows that, under the current due process test, incompetent criminal defendants are subjected to harms that might not be justified by the government’s interest in bringing them to trial.

Recommended Citation

Dora W. Klein, Unreasonable: Involuntary Medications, Incompetent Criminal Defendants, and the Fourth Amendment, 46 San Diego L. Rev. 161 (2009).

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