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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Wrong to Give Aurora Killer Truth Serum



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I could not believe my eyes: A judge has ordered the Aurora killer to be injected with a truth serum to test the veracity of a “not guilty by reason of insanity” agreement. From the Guardian story:

Legal and medical experts are questioning the decision of a judge in Colorado to allow James Holmes, the suspected gunman in the Aurora cinema shooting, to be tested with a “truth serum” should he plead not guilty by reason of insanity. Judge William Sylvester ruled that in the event of Holmes pleading insanity his prosecutors would be permitted to interrogate him while he is under the influence of a medical drug designed to loosen him up and get him to talk.

The idea would be that such a “narcoanalytic interview” would be used to confirm whether or not he had been legally insane when he embarked on his shooting spree on 20 July last year. The precise identity of the drug that would be used has not been released, other than a statement that it would be “medically appropriate”, but it would most likely be a short-acting barbiturate such as sodium amytal.

Medically appropriate?  This isn’t treating any medical condition. It is a form of coercion, permitting a plea in return for questioning under a non-efficacious medication, of questionable effectiveness, that moves us toward the kind of interventions one used to see in the Soviet Union. No ethical medical practitioner should have anything to do with it.

If Holmes was legally insane, let him prove his case it in open court. 



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