Should Jared Loughner be Forced to Take Anti-Psychotic Medication?

Mug shot of Jared LoughnerCongresswoman Gabrielle Giffords made her first public appearance last week when she joined her husband at the Houston Space Center as he received the Space Flight Medal. Giffords, who is still recovering from the brain injury she sustained from a gunshot wound to the head, will continue therapy indefinitely. Her doctors will advise her and her family what protocol to take, and she will be able to determine, after counseling with her loved ones, which course of action will be best for her recovery. The man who shot her does not have that option.

Jared Loughner was recently ordered to continue his anti-psychotic medications against his will. His trial, for 49 separate charges relating injuries sustained by 13 people and the death of six others, including U.S. District Court Judge John Roll and nine year old Christina Green, is on hold until the court orders him mentally competent to stand trial. At a recent hearing in San Diego, Loughner’s lawyers argued against the state and previous rulings allowing for forced medication of defendants. After they were made aware that Loughner had been medicated, they said, “The prison’s sole prerogative is to neutralize any danger. Yet here, the prison engaged instead in the error prone, multifaceted decision to treat mental illness and did so in a truncated, nonadversarial setting when it decided to forcibly medicate Mr. Loughner on the ostensible grounds of addressing dangerousness.”

Loughner had been found incompetent after being diagnosed with schizophrenia in May of this year. At only 22, the manifesto of his short life reads like a textbook case of any number of psychological problems: quit school young, smoked marijuana and drank, experienced drastic personality changes, engaged in extremist behaviors, became delusional and paranoid, and often acted in bizarre and abnormal ways, according to acquaintances. His lawyers are obviously against the ruling, and perhaps it is because they are afraid he may actually be able to stand trial and get the sentence the general public wants to impose, death.

Courts have previously ruled to allow the forcible medication of someone who poses a risk to themselves or others. Prison officials are reporting that Loughner is very disruptive and dangerous, and physically violent. And the law does allow for mandated medication in order to return someone to a state of competency so that they may participate in their own defense. But will that really accomplish anything?

This man was obvious not well when he committed those horrific acts back in January. He was probably in need of treatment long before that day. And even if he could comprehend what he was up against, could he really be held responsible for those acts? Did he have any idea of what he was doing if he was schizophrenic at the time of the crime? Unfortunately, he did not receive any sort of mental health diagnosis until long after the tragedy. And sadly, that is the case with many people. Dr. Arthur Caplan, Ph.D., director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, recently wrote, “Medicating him against his will may make him understand what happened. But it does not show that he was sane on Jan. 8.  If he was not, a life spent in a mental hospital trying to come to terms with the horror he caused may be the right punishment.”

But back to the point. Is it okay to medicate someone forcibly? I know from my own experience and research that certain medications can actually bring on agitation, aggression and even psychotic episodes. So if that is the case, who should make the determination to medicate? The prison doctors? The guards or staff? Or the courts? And what about the adverse physical side effects caused by many anti-psychotic medications? Are his lawyers just supposed to ignore the fact that although this man may hurt more people if not medicated, his own health may be at risk if he is? What a sticky wicket.

If he does have schizophrenia, the consequences of which may have already been realized, than it is imperative he be on medication. As a prisoner in a mental facility or any other correctional institution, he retains very few rights. He already has the right to three meals, a bed and a team of lawyers. So he loses his right to choose if he should take his medications. There are probably several thousand people with similar mental health challenges, sleeping under bridges right now that would gladly take free medication, a cot and three squares.

© Copyright 2011 by Jen Wilson. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Nellie


    July 5th, 2011 at 3:42 PM

    Yeah medicate him but sadly thr damage has already been done

  • Cat


    July 6th, 2011 at 4:41 AM

    Well it is not like he is in a situation where he is stable enough to make the decision for himself, so I guess that the state has the ability to give him medications when they feel necessary. They have to get him to a point to where he is well enough to stand tril, and I would think that giving him this medication would be able to help get him to that point.

  • mol


    July 6th, 2011 at 6:50 AM

    the decision whether to medicate him should not be in the hands of courts or judges but rather in the hands of professionals who can assess the situation well and decide the best.

  • amy-louise reagan

    amy-louise reagan

    July 6th, 2011 at 7:01 PM

    He should be forced into solitary confinement for life for six charges of murder, 13 charges of assault and attempted murder, using a firearm in public, and the attempted assassination of a politican.

    Feed him and water him. Give him the basics for survival, and no that does not include putting him on anti-psychotic medication. We spend enough taxes on scum like him already. Why bother? It’s not like he’s going to ever be released. I hope.

  • Ashton Tolbert

    Ashton Tolbert

    July 6th, 2011 at 7:27 PM

    “There are probably several thousand people with similar mental health challenges, sleeping under bridges right now that would gladly take free medication, a cot and three squares.”

    Correct, Jen! And they didn’t go out and kill six people and injure 39 to get it either. Anyone who’s feeling a pang of sympathy for him should redirect it to those poor souls under the bridges and donate to a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. They deserve it immensely more than he does.

    Thank you for a very good post.

  • Jackie Farrell

    Jackie Farrell

    July 6th, 2011 at 7:57 PM

    That grin he has makes me sick. He knows what he did, and he knows he is quite literally getting away with it because he can claim insanity. He did this on purpose and with the full intention of using insanity as a defense.

    He won’t “Come to terms with the horror”. It was planned and executed in a coldblooded manner. This was not a random, spontaneous crime.

  • K.M.V.


    July 6th, 2011 at 8:48 PM

    Loughner’s lawyers are full of it. The prison staff are the ones at risk who have to deal with this man every day. As the lawyers themselves said,(before going on to complain) “The prison’s sole prerogative is to neutralize any danger.” Of course it is! And they should use any means open to them to do so.

    Maybe the prison should allow Loughner’s lawyers to be in a room with him unsupervised when he’s been taken off his meds. It would be interesting to see if they continue to feel the same then about how ostensible their grounds are “of addressing dangerousness.”

  • SA


    July 6th, 2011 at 11:25 PM

    Such people should be treated whether with or without their conser.When they are not fine and are ill what right do they have to decide what’s good for them? It’s only good for them and for others that they are treated.

  • karen


    July 7th, 2011 at 8:20 AM

    it’s sad what happened and that he’s receiving treatment AFTER the tragedy…but what could be done by anybody? screen people randomly on the street whether they have mental health problems?! I don’t think so . His family members,who I suspect do not live with him, were probably the only people who could take any preventive action.

  • Bert E.

    Bert E.

    July 8th, 2011 at 9:55 AM

    Though I disagree with forcible medication, men and women who are a danger to the life and limb of innocents, like the monster has clearly demonstrated he is, should be incarcerated permanently. Life imprisonment. I don’t care if it’s in a mental health facility or a jail-as long as he never leaves it to walk amongst us, the law-abiding public, again.

    If you’re not a threat to anyone, there is no problem. If you are a threat, you need to be treated the same as a dangerous wild animal would be: either caged or put down.

  • Heidi Lang

    Heidi Lang

    July 8th, 2011 at 10:24 AM

    When deciding if a person like him needs medicated or not these opinions need taken into account and weighted in this order of importance.

    A victim: one who knows firsthand what they are capable of should have the loudest voice and be heard first. So first, a victim who can confirm how violent they are. Not potentially violent, but actually violent.

    Second, a doctor who evaluates them as dangerous in their current mental state. Within or outwith the prison system. And the doctor can be a prison doctor.

    Third, a Judge. He’s seen many criminals cross his courtroom and has the legal experience to state whether doing so would pass muster.

  • judith d. phillips

    judith d. phillips

    July 9th, 2011 at 4:25 PM

    Even though he is schizophrenic, not all schizophrenics are violent psychopaths. They may have a completely different outlook on the world that is completely distorted, but that could be all.

    We need to have a completely different sub-classification for schizophrenics with this misunderstood illness who are not dangerous to avoid them all being seen as a potential Jared Loughner.

  • H.C.


    July 9th, 2011 at 4:50 PM

    Why medicate him? This man killed six innocent people and tried to kill a congresswoman who was also at zero fault. Don’t we have the death penalty in this country? Why can’t we just execute him and bury him in the desert somewhere to serve justice? Or better still leave him out in the sun for the buzzards?

    Six people means six families lost a mom, a dad, a sibling, a spouse, or a grandparent…an eye for an eye doesn’t begin to cover it.

  • Jess Thompson

    Jess Thompson

    July 9th, 2011 at 7:51 PM

    @ We can’t because it’s illegal to execute the insane. Even when they did something that resulted in a worldwide manhunt they cannot be held responsible – if they can prove that they were incapable of understanding the consequences of their actions and what they were doing. That said, I think the fact that he plotted an assassination in broad daylight is proof of him being well aware of what he was doing.

    You can be evil without being insane.

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