The ethics of statutory coercion in the treatment of chemical substance abuse/dependence (addiction)

Med Law. 1989;7(5):427-32.


Many countries, including the Republic of South Africa, have introduced legislation providing for statutory treatment in cases of chemical substance dependence (addiction). Many more countries, including Canada and the United States of America, have made various attempts at the introduction of similar legislation in the face of an escalating drug abuse problem, only to have such legislation successfully challenged by various civil rights groups protesting about the "infringement of individual rights." This paper will examine some of the practical implications of coercive treatment of chemical addiction against the background of the principles of the rights of the individual. It will examine the feasibility of legal protection for such individual rights with simultaneous insistence on constructive treatment intervention. It will also raise many topics for discussion in terms of the role of the "helping professions", the well-worn tenet of "Am I my brother's keeper?" and the sociological poser of "the benefit of the community."

MeSH terms

  • Behavior Control*
  • Civil Rights*
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Humans
  • Mandatory Programs*
  • Patient Advocacy / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Risk Assessment
  • South Africa
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*