December 27, 2004
New Mental Health Law Article
A new article, "The New Neurobiology of Severe Psychiatric Disorders and ItsImplications for Laws Governing Involuntary Commitment and Treatment," by Fuller Torrey, The Treatment Advocacy Center; George Mason University - School of Law and Kenneth Kress, University of Iowa, College of Law discusses the new advances in neurobiology and how these new developments should impact our approach to involuntary commitment and treatment.
Abstract: Every student of the law knows that changed circumstances are grounds for changing the law. Although changes in social relations are the most common form of changed circumstances, changes in beliefs about the world can also spur legal change. Among the changed beliefs about the world that can result in changed laws, is changes in scientific beliefs, including medical theory. This paper argues that such changes are now needed for laws governing the involuntary commitment and treatment of individuals with severe psychiatric disorders. Recent advances in the understanding of the neurobiology of these disorders have rendered obsolete many assumptions underlying past statutes and legal decisions. This is illustrated by using schizophrenia as an example and examining two influential situations: California's Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (1969) and Wisconsin's Lessard v. Schmidt decision (1972). It is concluded that laws governing involuntary commitment and treatment need to be updated to incorporate the current neurobiological understanding of severe psychiatric disorders. In reaching these conclusions, we consider moral justifications for our suggestions, and sketch changes in constitutional law, statutory law, and public policy that are generated by the arguments we deploy.
The full article is available here.
December 26, 2004
How to Cover the Uninsured
Which is the more efficient tool for covering the uninsured: tax policy (e.g., tax credits aimed at employers or employees, tax credits targeted at nongroup coverage) or expansion of public insurance programs? That is the question Jonathan Gruber in the MIT Department of Economics examines in his paper, "Tax Policy for Health Insurance." As noted over on the TaxLawProf Blog, Gruber "contrast[s] the efficiency of these policies along several dimensions, most notably the dollars of public spending per dollar of insurance value provided. [He] find[s] that every tax policy is much less efficient than public insurance expansions: while public insurance costs the government only between $1.17 and $1.33 per dollar of insurance value provided, tax policies cost the government between $2.36 and $12.98 per dollar of insurance value provided." Thanks to my colleague, Hank Lischer, for bringing this article to my attention. [tm]