Thursday, December 21, 2006

Police want to burrow into your head

OK, not literally. Well, probably not your head, anyway. The AP reports that police in Beaumont, Texas want to compel 17-year-old Joshua Bush to submit to surgery to retrieve a bullet lodged in his forehead. They suspect that he recieved the gunshot as he participated in an armed robbery of a used car dealer.

Now, the body cavity search is established legal territory. Anything the police can reach with their fingers and some lube, they can get, so long as they have a search warrant. The question becomes, do they have the right to compell you to submit to a medical procedure you do not want, just to retrieve evidence they believe is hidden within your body. We are not talking about pricking with a needle to draw a blood test. This is surgery. Not life-threatening surgery, as this is nowhere near any major organ or blood vessels. However, since it is in his forehead, and bone has started to grow around the bullet, Bush would need to be put into full anaesthesia.

Full anaesthesia surgery is routine, but hardly trivial. The medications can have adverse reactions, and infection is always a risk. Infections in the face, where there are no lymph nodes to filter toxins out before the lymph re-enters the bloodstream, can be quite serious.

So the question becomes, how far does one's right to medical privacy and right to make one's own medical decisions go? Does the police's power to collect evidence (with a properly granted warrant) override one's fundamental right to make medical decisions?

If we look at the history of Supreme Court precedent, I think the balance must lean toward the rights of the individual to control his own medical decision. Roe v. Wade and Griswold v. Connecticut come to my mind, although they may be too narrowly written to apply directly, what with all the IANAL and so forth.

Anyway, I certainly lean more or less in the direction of the defendant, although if he did sustain the bullet wound in the way the robbery victim says he did, he is a violent criminal, and one hopes that the police will be able to find the evidence they need to prove this one way or another without having to force him to let a doctor slice his head open and chisel out whatever is lodged in his forehead.

4 comments:

SerenitySprings said...

The courts rule in favor of the individual all the time when it comes to medical issues. Think about how many kids have died because parents have refused to get them treatment because of religious reasons. Hopefully they'll leave this guy alone too.

Dave-o-ramA said...

Yeah, I mean, if this guy did it, I want him to go to jail, but I don't want it enough to grant the police the power to make medical decisions for people.

SerenitySprings said...

CNN.com says the police were able to get the warrant so it looks like surgery all around! YAY for invasive surgery at the behest of the government! Fuckers. What's next? Forced sterilization? Wait...that might not be such a bad idea...

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