Inmates Right to refuse psychiatric treatment

Inmates Right to refuse psychiatric treatment

Doctors give incompetent inmates psychiatric treatment. Sub-sections 88(1)(a)/(b) of corrections and conditional release Act states that inmates shall not receive treatment, or continue to receive it once it has started unless the inmate voluntarily gives informed consent. An inmate has the right to refuse or withdraw from treatment at any time. However, subsection 88(5) states that treatment is administered to inmates without their consent when they are mentally incompetent (Correctional service Canada, 2016). Regional psychiatric hospitals are under the governance of applicable mental health act, which enables them to offer treatment to inmates who cannot give informed consent.

All persons have a right to make decisions regarding their body according to the law. Competent individuals understand benefits and risks of treatment proposed to them and are in a position to make an informed choice. However, some psychiatric patients are competent mentally to refuse medical treatment. There are common law rights for inmates to refuse medical treatment and entitlement to adequate medical care and attention required in treating short and long-term illnesses. The charter of rights and freedoms protects individual rights to make decisions.

Mendelsohn (2011) explains that in the United States, Supreme Court establishes that citizens possess a non-absolute right to refuse any medical treatment they feel appropriate even if the refusal may end in their death. However, the nature of the penal system limits incarcerated persons to effect their constitutional rights. The right to refuse treatment is given to competent individuals to preserve their life, with the aim of protecting interests of third parties who are innocent, preventing suicide and for the maintenance of the ethical integrity of medical professionals. Inmates are allowed to refuse treatment by the court if they had earlier on forwarded their desire to forego objective treatment in their competent states.

Section seven of the Charter of rights and freedom guarantees all people a right to liberty, life, and security of persons. Moreover, there is a right not to be denied the guarantees except according to the principles of fundamental justice. Attempts to offer treatment without offenders consent is a violation of their rights, cruel and unusual punishment, which is contrary to section 12 of the charter (Canada correctional service, 2016). The court refuses interference with the autonomy of individuals even if denial of access may result in the death of the offender.

 The court may allow inmates to refuse certain kinds of treatments when innocent third parties include other prison inmates, DOC employees, public safety, emotional and financial interests of dependents with special concerns to minor children. Inmates can deny certain treatments if their refusal is evident that they do not want to die or is not intended to be a backdoor suicide (LGIT’s Commander’s log, 2009). Moreover, termination of treatment is considered when their decisions do not harm the medical profession in any tangible way.

Inmates have a right to refuse treatment when their diseases are in their end stages, and there is no probability of healing. A case presented by J. Michael Stouffer v. Troy Reid, to the court of special appeals decided on February 6, 2009, reports that the inmate refused to continue kidney dialysis and its related medical treatment. The inmate was under imprisonment by the department of Corrections (DOC) and sentenced to forty years. In 2007, prison medical personnel diagnosed him with end-stage renal disease. The personnel prescribed him to be going for kidney dialysis three times each week. However, the inmate, Reid, did not accept it where he attended few times within the estimated times and other times he never received any treatment. In April 2008, he refused treatment and commissioner of corrections J. Michael Stouffer, filed a lawsuit compelling Reid to submit to medical treatment (Mendelsohn, 2011).

Baltimore City Circuit Court refused to compel the inmate to agree to treatment.

  However, Commissioner Stouffer appealed to the court of special appeals, which affirmed the decision of the circuit court. Also, the highest court in Maryland addresses the law right indicating that each competent adult has the right to refuse medical care. Reid’s case met all qualifications desired for a person to be in a position to refuse treatment. The court found out that Reid was mentally competent and his aim was not to commit suicide as a potential life-threatening trick. Moreover, his desire was objectionable. Reid aimed to protect third parties who could be the safety of the public, overcome financial and emotional difficulties from his family, and cover minor children (Mendelsohn, 2011). The case presented no evidence of Reid desiring to die or commit suicide although termination of dialysis could worsen his condition and result in immediate death. Fourth, the integrity of the medical profession received no harm in any way intangible.

Prisoners have a liberty interest of protection against their will. The case in Washington v. Harper defined the liberty extensively. It involved a prisoner who objected receiving antipsychotic medications. Washington prison elaborated administrative protections before medicating an inmate against his will. Washington Supreme Court rejected administrative protections and demanded inmates allowed their full rights before treating them against their will (Richards, 2016). The Washington prison concluded that greater procedures and protections followed treatment using antipsychotic medications in case of highly intrusive nature. The due process clause allowed the state to administer antipsychotic medication to the competent and non-consenting inmate in a judicial hearing where inmates had full panoply involving adverse procedures of protections.

Mr. Harper explained that prison authorities refused to give him medications on condition that he was proved mentally incompetent in an adversarial hearing. He further added that he could be medicated if the persons finding the facts indicated to have consented to the medication in his competent nature. The U.S Supreme Court rejected the claims indicating that the constitution was adequate in its rationale of accepting expert decision making as substitutes for decision-making. The Washington Supreme Court agreed that Harper had his liberty to not being medicated against his will, which is protected by the proceedings of the administrative prison-requiring psychiatrist to certify the appropriate nature of the treatment. The right to refuse medical treatment among prisoners were limited in conditions when they are mentally ill and medication given could remedy their conditions (Richards, 2016). However, prisoners must not refuse treatment or testing for conditions that have a likelihood of threatening health and safety of community prisons. These would include spreading communicable diseases and psychiatric conditions that can be treated. Prisoners are forced to treatment that protects their health from being permanently injured.

Prisoners legal services. (2016) Asserts that competent persons have a protected liberty interest to constitutionally refuse medical treatment that they may consider unwanted. The rule applies that the prison staff has to respect the right to refuse treatment or medication recommended by the doctor. The doctors are required to meet with the inmate to explain the risks and benefits while leaving the final decision to the client.


The right to refuse medical treatment is limited to situations when prison officials note a prolonged hunger strike and the refusal of treatment from inmates placing them at risk of death or serious harm to their bodies (Prisoners legal services, 2016). In such circumstances, the DOC is allowed to file a petition to the superior court in search of approval to forcefully feed the prisoner and give them treatment.

Rights to refuse to shackle among pregnant inmates

The pregnant prisoner has a right to receive necessary care during her prenatal and postnatal stages. Moreover, they are entitled to adequate diet, accommodations, clothing, bed assignment, childbirth and infant care education as well as the housing area. Prison department should respond to HIV/AIDS inmates, giving them services and programs that correspond to their specific needs. Pregnant inmates have a right to refuse shackling until after recuperating from safe delivery (Thigpen, Beauclair, Buell, 2013). More than two hundred thousand women already incarcerated in the United States, almost half of those confined in jails report having more than 5 percent women being pregnant as they enter state prisons and local jails.

A smaller percentage is reported for federal prisoners. Many children are born to imprisoned women. However, various legal issues about prenatal care, shackling pregnant women in childbirth, restricted access to elective, nontherapeutic abortions have caught the attention of many since female offenders are mothers having minor children. United Nations Committee against Torture comments it is inhuman and a violation of the United Nations Convention to practice shackling during childbirth. The practice is opposed by the American medical and legal communities, which joined humanitarian groups.

American correctional association (ACA) recognized the wellbeing of the unborn fetus as they consider their policies on shackling of pregnant inmate women. The United Nations Bangkok Rule 24, which was adopted in December 2010, states that restraint instruments shall not be used on women when in labor, in childbirth stages, and after delivery. The policy describes the practice as dangerous. Regulation of these policies is under legislation by advocacy groups as well as policies, regulation, and practices that reflect the commitment that protects inmates against the use of restraints in childbirth but in their transportation, third trimester and their postpartum recovery (Thigpen, Beauclair, Buell, 2013).

Pregnant women have a right to refuse shackling and restraints by the wrists or ankles as supported by the federal bureau of prisons in the US, while in labor and delivery unless the woman proves to be risky. Moreover, ACOG explains that shackling women during child labor are unnecessary since they are not able to ease the pains of labor, bruises caused by chain belts in their abdomen makes them feel the loss of is a compromise to hypertension, genocidal occlusion, and compromise of the fetus. In some instances, the chains delay cesarean delivery. Individuals under shackling suffer from psychiatric disorders such as posttraumatic stress, depression, and phobia demanding those years of therapy.

Rights to abortion among pregnant inmates

Pregnant women have a right to obtain elective medical procedures including abortions. Legal abortions are allowed until the second trimester.Eighth Amendment analysis places abortion as a serious medical need. Section 1983 outlines damages that arise from the denial of an inmate’s rights to obtain an abortion, funding, or transport to a health facility. It argues that inmates should have access to elective, nontherapeutic abortion. It adds that giving birth would require inmates to go through high-risk pregnancies because of their histories of substance abuses, poor health records, and states of extreme poverty (LGIT’s Commander’s log, 2009). In most situations, children are forced to be given to foster care or adoption, which would affect the health of women, which is already fragile.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.