The Champion

May/June 2008 , Page 26 

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Forced Medication After United States v. Sell: Fighting a Client's 'War on Drugs'

By Donna Lee Elm, Douglas Passon

I. The Sell Case

The landscape of forced medication cases changed significantly as the result of the struggle of Dr. Charles Thomas Sell. Dr. Sell had a thriving dental practice in suburban St. Louis when, in 1997, he was indicted on over 60 counts of fraud and money laundering related to his practice.1 After the first indictment, a witness in the case made allegations that Dr. Sell had threatened her life; another informant claimed Dr. Sell was making plans to kill an FBI agent involved in the investigation. Thus, in April 1998, the government obtained another indictment against Dr. Sell that added those serious charges.

Dr. Sell had a history of mental illness dating back to 1982. Questions regarding competency were inevitably raised. In early 1999, the magistrate judge entered an order sending Dr. Sell to the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri (“Springfield”). The doctors at Springfield believed he was suffering from delusi

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