A study of the delicate balance between civil liberties and government benevolence. Beginning with Buck v. Bell and concluding with surrogate decision making and the "right to die," the course will explore such issues as involuntary civil commitment, the rights of the homeless mentally ill, the propriety of psychiatric predictions of violent behavior in death penalty cases, the right to treatment, the right to refuse treatment, the regulation of experimental treatment, and, time permitting, assisted suicide. Although there is some discussion of mental disability cases involving the death penalty and incompetency to stand trial, the course focuses primarily on civil rather than criminal law issues. For those who are interested, there may also be an opportunity to examine international human rights issues as they relate to mental disabilities. Students have the option of writing a paper or completing a take-home examination and will attend a court hearing to observe how the cases we study are actually applied.
Exam (open book/take home with 10-12 page limit) or paper (10-15 page limit) option.