The U.S. Supreme Court has declared it unconstitutional to execute death row inmates who are too insane to understand the fact of their pending execution and the reasons behind it. The Court has not specified, however, what mechanisms a state may constitutionally employ to render such an inmate sane enough to execute. This Note addresses whether states may forcibly administer antipsychotic drugs to insane death row inmates in order to restore their competence for execution. It concludes that states violate both the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments when execution is preceded by forcible medication with antipsychotic drugs. First, as soon as an execution date is set, a forcible medication program ceases to meet the constitutional requirement that it be “medically appropriate” because it no longer comports with the ethical standards of the medical profession, and it subverts treatment into a degrading punishment unique to incompetent death row inmates. Second, this scheme violates inmates’ rights to due process because the state’s interest in execution does not outweigh both an inmate’s privacy interest and the state’s own interest in preserving the integrity of the medical community when execution will be replaced by a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Michaela P. Sewall, Pushing Execution Over the Constitutional Line: Forcible Medication of Condemned Inmates and the Eight and Fourteenth Amendments, 51 B.C.L. Rev. 1279 (2010), https://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/bclr/vol51/iss4/7