Washington Law Review


Amanda E. Lee


Antipsychotic drugs are used to treat mentally ill inmates in Washington prisons. Previously, inmates who refused drugs were entitled to an administrative hearing before involuntary treatment began. Harper v. State recognized a constitutional liberty interest in refusing antipsychotics, and established new measures, including a judicial hearing, notice, and appointed counsel, to protect the prisoner's interest. A due process analysis of the right to refuse demonstrates that the court's procedures may not go far enough to protect the inmate from unwanted treatment that cannot cure the mental illness and that may cause disabling side effects. Clearer definitions of state interests in involuntary treatment and provision of expert assistance for prisoners refusing drugs are necessary to effectively protect prisoners' liberty.

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