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8th Circuit: Prisoner's Right to Avoid Involuntary Medication Safeguarded Only by Minimal Procedural Due Process Protections

In a case alleging that a prisoner's transfer, detention, and involuntary medication violated his Due Process rights, the Eighth Circuit has affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the defendant prison officials and doctors.

After being released from administrative segregation, Missouri prisoner Timothy Green became delusional. However, because he did not believe that he was delusional, he refused to take prescribed medication. He was then transferred to a state hospital where he was forcibly medicated for seven months.

Green sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that his Due Process rights had been violated. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants.

Acknowledging that, under Washington v. Harper, 494 U.S. 210, 222 (1990), prisoners possess "a significant liberty interest in avoiding the unwanted administration of antipsychotic drugs," the Eighth Circuit rejected Green's argument that the Due Process Clause required that a prisoner be deemed dangerous before he may be involuntarily medicated. It is necessary, the Court held, only that he be found "gravely disabled" (as Green was) and that he receive (as Green did) minimum procedural Due Process protections: notice; a hearing where the prisoner is present and permitted to cross-examine witnesses; a neutral decision-maker; and the right to appeal. See Green v. Dormire, 691 F.3d 917 (8th Cir. 2012).

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Related legal case

Green v. Dormire