Does AB 1421 Allow Forced Drugging?

Does AB 1421 Allow Forced Drugging?



California Assembly Bill 1421, titled Mental health: involuntary treatment, was passed

into law on September 28, 2002 and became effective on January 1, 2003. The name of

the legislation is popularly known as “Laura’s Law”, due to the fact that the murder of

Laura Wilcox by Scott Thorpe was the well-publicized crime used to build support for

Since the bill contained no funding for its enforcement, each of California’s 58 counties

was required to opt into the program by finding the money to enact it and to provide

certain specified information regarding its effect to the state upon implementing it. In

the ensuing twelve years, only Nevada County has fully implemented the law, and

Los Angeles County has started a pilot program. Now several other large counties are

considering initiating the law, and this possibility has created a controversy related to the

provisions of the law – specifically, will it allow for the forced drugging of outpatients

upon the order of the courts. This issue is hotly debated, with the defenders arguing that

forced drugging is not allowed, and the opponents insisting that forced drugging is called

for in the details of the law.

Forced drugging is a hot button issue due to the many abuses suffered by mental patients

in the past caused by coerced treatment – abuses such as forced incarceration, torture

disguised as treatment, brain surgery, chemical experiments, sterilization, etc. In the

long history of medical treatment, coercion has not been an accepted practice except

when used as justification for political repression. Therefore, a close examination of the

law and administrative practices surrounding mental health laws in general is in order

to determine an answer to the question: Does AB 1421 permit forced drugging? The

following analysis has been obtained from the law itself and from documents taken from

the records of the Department of Mental Health, the state agency in charge of overseeing

the implementation of the law.

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