Friday, February 10, 2012

This Week In The News

There are a lot of stories in the news lately that have a forensic connection: the disgruntled noncustodial father who blew up his house (and kids), Madonna's stalker who eloped from a psychiatric hospital, a recent legal decision out of Georgia about assisted suicide, and an inmate with gender identity disorder who may be the first to get a state-sponsored sex change operation.


Where to begin, where to begin?


The Georgia decision has personal relevance since it means one of our retired local doctors won't face murder charges for offering advice and encouragement from a distance to someone who died of suicide there. The Georgia Supreme Court decided that the law banning suicide in that state was unconstitutional since it barred mere conversation about the issue separate from any act of aiding a suicide. As such, it was an unlawful infringement on free speech. It's hard to believe that it's been five years already since the first time I've blogged about this topic and fifteen years since the US Supreme Court said it was OK to ban it. Over half the country has laws against it now, but I don't know how many, if any, could be at risk because of the issue with the Georgia statute.


The story about the inmate with gender identity disorder (found thanks to my friend Lorry Schoenly's twitter feed---thanks Lorry! please follow her) also interests me because it's an emerging issue in the treatment rights of prisoners. Specifically, prisoners with gender identity disorder. We've talked about gender identity disorder before on podcasts number 20 and 21 (which included an interview with Dr. Chris Kraft about evaluation and treatment), respectively. I blogged about the history of right to treatment for prisoners here, but there's been one significant change since that 2006 blog post: courts have decided that gender identity disorder does constitute a serious mental disorder which requires treatment. What the courts are arguing about now is whether that right to treatment includes sex change operations. The state of Wisconsin passed a law to ban use of health care funds for this, but that law was overturned as unconstitutional. Prisons are required to continue hormone therapy if it was being prescribed prior to incarceration, though.


Separate from the issue of treatment, GID prisoners don't have a right to dress in opposite sex clothing or to have access to makeup. They don't have a right to be housed in a facility consistent with their gender identity. (Female prisoners sued, and won, cases alleging invasion of privacy when male-to-female GID inmates were housed in a female correctional facility.)


So that's where we are on the GID inmate front. Regarding the Madonna stalker, well, I have some personal experiences with psychotic stalkers but since I don't blog about specific patients that story will go untold.


That leaves the child murder story. Ugh. No thanks. I've seen these cases, they're awful, I'd rather not dwell on them. I'm taking a personal pass.