U.S. Supreme Court Set to Hear Oral Argument in Forced Drugging Case

by Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics

24 February 2003

On Monday March 3rd, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the groundbreaking case of Dr. Charles Sell, a St. Louis dentist ordered to submit to involuntary medication with anti-psychotic drugs (Sell v. United States, No. 02-5664). Charged with Medicaid fraud in 1997, Sell was found incompetent to stand trial due to mental illness. Since that time, he has been fighting the federal government's efforts to forcibly inject him with drugs they claim will render him competent to stand trial.

The Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics, a nonprofit civil rights organization, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Dr. Sell arguing that the forced medication would violate his First Amendment right to freedom of thought. "The fundamental right to control one's own thought processes is protected by the First Amendment and will be seriously compromised if the government, with the approval of our courts, is allowed to chemically manipulate the thought processes of non-dangerous citizens," argues Richard Glen Boire, legal counsel for the Center.

Solicitor general Ted Olsen, who represents the United States in the case, is expected to argue that the government's interest in bringing accused people to trial outweighs Dr. Sell's First Amendment interest in remaining free from the potentially dangerous medication.

The case is unique in that it will present the U.S. Supreme Court with the critical opportunity to update longstanding protections for freedom of thought. As we enter the 21st Century emerging advances in the field of pharmacology and other technologies make the direct manipulation of thought increasingly possible. "The Supreme Court has an opportunity in this case to recognize that freedom of thought is dependent on cognitive liberty," says Boire, "and it is imperative that the interest all Americans have in autonomy over their own brain chemistry be recognized and protected."

Several organizations including the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, the American Psychological Association, and Drug Policy Alliance have also filed briefs opposing the forced drugging of Dr. Sell.

For more information contact:

Richard Glen Boire, J.D. or Julie Ruiz-Sierra, J.D. at the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics Tel./Fax (530) 750-7912 E-mail:

(Richard Glen Boire is available for interviews on the day of oral argument (March 3rd) in Washington D.C. and via telephone.) Read the CCLE Brief in the US Supreme Court:

THE CENTER FOR COGNITIVE LIBERTY & ETHICS The CCLE is nonprofit law and policy center working in the public interest to foster cognitive liberty-the right of each individual to think independently, and to use the full spectrum of his or her mind. The CCLE encourages social policies that respect and protect the full potential and autonomy of the human intellect. For more information on our organization and the issues we investigate, visit the CCLE's Web site at

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