Anchorage woman fights order to take anti-psychotic drugs

Posted: Monday, April 07, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) An Anchorage woman is fighting a recent court ruling allowing state psychiatrists to force her to take anti-psychotic drugs to counter symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia.

Faith Myers, 51, is pursuing an appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court.

State psychiatrists went to court in March to force Myers to take powerful, anti-psychotic drugs to treat her delusions and hallucinations. But Myers, a former child care worker, said such a significant decision should be hers.

Myers has been at Alaska Psychiatric Institute since Feb. 21, when her family obtained a court order to have her evaluated. A judge has since ordered her committed, ruling that she was a danger to herself and others.

For most of the past two decades, Myers has taken prescribed anti-psychotic drugs. Their tranquilizing effects blur her memories, she said.

It's almost as if my whole family life has been taken from me,'' Myers testified at a March 5 court hearing.

At her request, the hearing was open to the public, allowing a rare glimpse into usually private mental health court proceedings, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

For much of her adult life, Myers has struggled with mental or emotional problems, she testified. She's been at API before and other treatment centers too. Doctors prescribed different drugs at various times.

A year ago, she weaned herself off everything. But her grown children worry that she's not safe without her medicine. Things worsened this year, her daughter, Rachael Humphreys, testified.

Myers' family got a court order to have her evaluated at API.

The medications that doctors want Myers to take are ruining thousands of lives, and she shouldn't be forced into taking them, said her attorney, Jim Gottstein.

But the science of modern psychiatry isn't on trial, argued Jeffrey Killip, an assistant attorney general representing API. Under Alaska law, the issue is simply whether Myers has the mental capacity to provide informed consent'' regarding the medicine.

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Morgan Christen ruled that Myers needed to be committed because her illness made her a danger to herself and others. The question of medication was more difficult.

In this case, I find that there is indeed real and credible evidence supporting the conclusion that a genuine difference of opinion exists between credible psychiatric experts regarding these medications,'' Christen wrote in a March 14 order.

It wasn't clear that Myers was thinking rationally enough to decide for herself, the judge determined. The state psychiatrists can force the medicine, she ruled.

The medication decision, however, is on hold while Gottstein pursues an appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court.

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