March 27, 2002
State governments and the federal courts are separately assuming
the power to forcibly drug American citizens. The details are
The federal Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit recently
ordered dentist Dr. Charles Sell, charged but never tried or convicted
of Medicaid fraud, to be drugged against his will. In a split 2-1
decision, the Court gave a government psychiatrist unlimited power to
inject any type and quantity of mind-altering drugs into Dr. Sell.
The Court authorized these forcible injections on the basis of
unproven allegations of a non-violent crime. The traditional rule
"innocent until proven guilty" was replaced by "drugged until proven
The government claims it needs to drug Dr. Sell in order to try
him, even though he has already served more time than his possible
punishment. How can our government require mind-altering medication of
citizens presumed to be innocent when we don't even allow government to
require citizens to recite the pledge of allegiance to the flag?
Dr. Sell has been held without a trial for about four and a half
years, longer than the sentence for his alleged crime of Medicaid
fraud. The government eventually threw in more serious charges and
held him in solitary confinement for one and a half years, but not even
the Court of Appeals gave credence to those additional charges in
ordering his drugging.
A former Army Reservist, Dr. Sell had been an outspoken critic of
the government and was called delusional based primarily on his
criticisms of federal actions in Waco and Bosnia. Early on, he was
offered a reduced plea bargain, but refused to plead guilty to a crime
he insists he did not commit.
Relations between Dr. Sell and officials then quickly
deteriorated, with agents beating him just prior to an unusual, awkward
encounter with a magistrate in a holding cell. Dr. Sell responded by
spontaneously spitting in the face of the magistrate, and the
government has kept him in prison and tried to drug him ever since.
The treatment of Dr. Sell reminds us of George Orwell's famous
book "1984," where the State coercively reshapes the minds of its
adversaries rather than simply oppose them. "It is intolerable to us
that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however
secret and powerless it may be," the Orwellian persecutor declares amid
compulsory injections by hypodermic syringe.
The Supreme Court has generally prohibited drugging convicted
felons against their consent where the subject poses no threat to the
safety of others or himself. Several Supreme Court Justices have
emphatically denounced any use of drugs as punishment.
Meanwhile, legislation is sweeping through state legislatures to
grant state health departments the power to forcibly drug any citizen,
whether charged with a crime or not. Deceptively entitled the "Model
State Emergency Health Powers Act," it authorizes state officials to
require everyone to take a drug, a vaccine, or other treatment.
Refusal of treatment enables the state health department to remove
you or your children from your home for placement in a distant
quarantine. Don't bother calling your legislator or going to a judge
because the bill strips them of any power to help.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) paid up to
$900,000 for the drafting of this unprecedented legislation. To hurry
passage, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is
conditioning a grant of funds to the states on swift adoption of this
Never before have legislatures abdicated their responsibilities
and powers in such a manner. Current laws permit state legislatures to
restrain runaway state health departments, but the new bill would give
these unelected bureaucrats unchecked authority for 60 days, during
which the legislature is powerless to protect its citizens.
About one-third of the states currently have exemptions to
vaccination programs for reasons of conscience. Like the persecutor in
Orwell's "1984," the new Health Powers Act denies any such exemption.
When the postal workers were victimized by the anthrax attack, the
government provided them with the same vaccine that President Clinton
had required of U.S. service personnel under threat of court martial.
Given the option, however, less than 2 percent of postal workers chose
to receive the vaccine.
That was humiliating to public health officials, who depend on
universal, unquestioned vaccination to justify their budgets and
credibility. They made sure that the new Health Powers Act does not
give citizens the same choice that the postal workers had.