Saturday, December 22, 2007

Wall Street Journal: "Free to Die in Iowa"

In today's Wall Street Journal, Michael Judge has a powerful piece about the Sonny Iovino case in Iowa:

After Iovino's death, a spokesman for the VA Medical Center told the Cedar Rapids Gazette, "If somebody doesn't want to be treated, you can't treat them." This is simply not the case. Given his debilitated state, the VA psychiatrist on duty could have forced Iovino to receive the treatment that might have saved his life ...

In fact, Iowa's commitment standard is better than many states', which demand that a person be an "imminent" danger to himself or others. In Iowa, however, to be eligible for AOT a person must lack sufficient judgment to make responsible decisions concerning treatment; and be either (1) a danger to self/others or (2) unable to satisfy the need for "nourishment, clothing, essential medical care, or shelter so that it is likely that the person will suffer physical injury, physical debilitation, or death."

When Iovino was picked up by police just two days prior to his death, he was digging up the earth with his bare hands, talking to himself, barefoot in frigid weather, and huddling near a building's exhaust vent to stay warm. He was at the very least a danger to himself ...

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