Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Forced Drugging Case

Yesterday [Nov. 4], the US Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Dr. Charles Thomas Sell, a dentist who the government seeks to forcibly inject with mind-altering drugs. In May 2002, the Federal Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled that Dr. Sell could be injected with psychotropic drugs in order to make him “mentally competent” to stand trial for Medicaid fraud. Dr. Sell insists on his right to refuse this mind-altering medication, and the Supreme Court has agreed to review the case.

Dr. Sell’s case has caught the attention of a number of civil liberties activists and organizations. California attorney Julie Ruiz-Sierra authored an amicus curiae brief asking the Supreme Court to hear Dr. Sell’s case. She argues that by drugging Dr. Sell against his will, the government violates Dr. Sell’s right to security and autonomy within his own body.  “This is a case that raises serious and compelling issues of bodily integrity,” says Ruiz-Sierra.

Other organizations feel that Dr. Sell’s case concerns not only bodily integrity, but also rights of the mind. The Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics (CCLE) also filed an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court in support of Dr. Sell. The author of the brief, attorney Richard Glen Boire, sees this case as a freedom of thought issue, one that the Supreme Court has previously located within the First Amendment. "By altering a person’s mind with the forced administration of drugs,” states the brief, “the government commits an act of cognitive censorship and mental manipulation, an action even more offensive to democratic principles than the censorship of speech."

The Eighth Circuit Court’s earlier decision, which critics have called “shocking and inhumane,” ruled that Dr. Sell’s bodily integrity was less important than the state’s interest in bringing him to trial. The CCLE, however, argues in its brief that the lower court mischaracterized the personal liberty right at stake in this case.  "When the government invades a person's body in order to manipulate the mind," says Mr. Boire, "even more than bodily integrity is at stake. This case raises the very important issue of cognitive liberty—what rights a person has to resist forced manipulation of his or her thinking."

Advocates for Dr. Sell hope that their bodily integrity and cognitive liberty arguments will convince the Supreme Court to block Dr. Sell’s forcible drugging, and prevent similar abuses from occurring in the future. Dr. Sell has been incarcerated for over five years without trial, at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri. If Dr. Sell had been found guilty, his sentence would be no more than 41 months—almost two years shorter than the time he has already spent in custody.


Read this original press release online at:

Further materials concerning the Dr. Sell case are available online at:

Contact Information:

Richard Glen Boire, Esq.,
Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics

The Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics is nonprofit law and policy center working in the public interest to foster cognitive liberty—the right of each individual to think independently, and to use the full spectrum of his or her mind. The CCLE encourages social policies that respect and protect the full potential and autonomy of the human intellect. For more information on our organization and the issues we investigate, visit the CCLE’s Web site at