Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Wash Post: Mentally ill people and their families can't get help

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a case questioning the constitutionality of Arizona’s insanity defense. The case involves Eric Clark, a young man with untreated schizophrenia who was delusional and thought that aliens had invaded Flagstaff. Eric’s family tried desperately to get help, but could not because he was not yet dangerous. Clark was convicted for shooting and killing a police officer.

On Saturday, April 24, 2006, a Washington Post editorial, writing about the insanity case noted that:

[t]his legal question, however important, comes into play only after the system has failed. The real question should be why people like Mr. Clark's parents so often cannot get help before it's too late. The answer, unfortunately, is as glaring as it is intractable. Politicians don't like paying for care for the critically mentally ill. And the courts, in their zeal to protect the rights of the mentally ill, often neglect their welfare; the courts will generally not allow authorities to hold anyone for treatment in the absence of evidence that he poses a threat, evidence not always available before somebody gets hurt. Instead of taking responsibility for sick people -- some of whose very illnesses prevent them from making informed choices -- our system "frees" them to homelessness or delusions until they do something for which it can exact revenge.

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