We have our local morning paper to thank for bringing this to our attention, although it was in the form of another newspaper's editorial presented as a Guest View. (See snapshot on the right.) It was about Texas Senate bill 359, which if it had not been vetoed, would have given employees at a hospital or free standing emergency medical center the right to detain someone for four hours if a physician determined that person was mentally ill and decided restraint was necessary to prevent that person from hurting himself or others.
In other words, the medical center staff would be given the powers of arrest that are traditionally reserved for law enforcement officers. What could possible go wrong? The aforementioned editorial quotes a statement from LULAC's state director saying that the action could be taken against a normal person who simply lost it because of a long wait for help in an emergency room. We can all see that happening. And suddenly he's got a mental illness label to carry around with him for the rest of his life.
This may not be an example of the liberal fascism Jonah Goldberg talks about, but it's not far off. People old enough to remember the Soviet Union may also recall the way they used a diagnosis of mental illness as an excuse to silence dissidents. By the way, the author of the bill is Dallas Democrat Royce West.
But for the best argument against the bill, see Governor Abbott's veto Proclamation. Excerpt:
The Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution limit the state's authority to deprive a person of liberty. Under our constitutional tradition, the power to arrest and forcibly hold a person against his or her will is generally reserved for officers of the law acting in the name of the people of Texas. By bestowing that grave authority on private parties who lack the training of peace officers and are not bound by the same oath to protect and serve the public, SB 359 raises serious constitutional concerns and would lay the groundwork for further erosion of constitutional liberties.
Medical facilities have options at their disposal to protect mentally ill patients and the public. Many hospitals already keep a peace officer on site at all times. For smaller facilities, law enforcement are always just a phone call and a few minutes away. Medical staff should work closely with law enforcement to help protect mentally ill patients and the public. But just as law enforcement should not be asked to practice medicine, medical staff should not be asked to engage in law enforcement, especially when that means depriving a person of the liberty protected by the Constitution.
Yes. Let's protect those Constitutional liberties. There are too many people trying to take them away.