Thursday, January 31, 2008

Legal, Ethical, and Two Good Books

Does this 5150 statute bother anyone else? It sounds like a creepy ghost from the turn of the century “medical” practitioners or something from Gulliver’s Travels.
I think Robert Whitaker’s Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine and The Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill should be required reading for anyone who is even remotely connected to modern medical or legal issues. This stuff is wild, but it has influenced a lot of the laws and views that are on the books today.
It bothers me that even a “friend” can commit a person to a mental institution. Keith Valone (the clinical psychologist in the story) said, "Getting a 5150 isn't a very hard [process] to do." So the next time you’re ticked at your mother or boyfriend, pull some strings with your closest psychologist friend and get a write up for a 5150.
Due process: basic fairness in regard to legislation and law enforcement. I think that the 5150 statute doesn’t provide much legal protection for Brittany or anyone else. Sure, the authorities have to follow the paperwork procedures that they’ve set up, but it seems like there are some holes in this set-up.
One of the SPJ’s ethical goals is to “Minimize Harm”. I don’t think much of the reporting surrounding the whole Brittany saga intends to minimize harm. “Show good taste, show compassion; Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.” Would you have known that was part of the SPJ Code of Ethics just by watching how reporters get the story about Brittany?

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