Monday, December 17, 2012

The Needs of the Many versus the Rights of the Individual

We, in America, will be deep into soul searching, at least until some other tragedy diverts the mainstream media from the massacre at Newtown.  As this debate unfolds and the issues of gun ownership, mental illness, and protection of school children are discussed -- there must, of necessity, be some discussion of how we balance the rights of our society to protect itself, against the rights of the individual to privacy, and freedom from government abuse.
Historically, we’ve striven to protect the rights of the individual, but with the ever-increasing outcry for action to protect our children the pendulum may be swinging the other way.  There is a CBS report here, on the attempt by Connecticut legislators to create an effective assisted outpatient treatment law earlier this year. reported the bill passed the Connecticut Joint Committee on Judiciary, but died a quiet death when the ACLU and opponents of involuntary treatment called it “outrageously discriminatory.”   To view the nature of that opposition I think this blog gives a good summary of one individual’s testimony against involuntary treatment.
So here we are, months later talking about the tragedy at Newtown.  At the end of the day I don’t know if there will ever be a clear understanding of this horrific event’s root cause, but the fact that in today’s communities, we expect all people with emotional problems to act rationally to seek and approve their own treatment strikes me as akin to suggesting we keep our doors unlocked trusting that people will know not to come in without our permission.
I expect there will be an increasingly loud drum beat for federal action, but I don’t think that would be the best course of action.  For the federal government would be bound to establish one set of conditions that might work in one location, but not in all the rest.  Should the people of North Dakota have the same expectations for evaluation as the people of New York City, where the pace of life, the daily social pressures, the support structures of family, community, and faith are so different?

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