One of the drugs that the Institute tried to force on the plaintiff was Zyprexa and from here on in, the state cannot force people to take Zyprexa, or any other psychiatric drug, without first proving it to be in the patient's best interests and that there are no less restrictive alternatives available. The ruling is specific to psychiatric drugs.
"By requiring the least intrusive alternative to forced psychiatric drugging," says Jim Gottstein, the triumphant attorney in the case, "this decision has the potential to change the face of current psychiatric practice, dramatically improving the lives of people who now find themselves at the wrong end of a hypodermic needle."
Mr Gottstein acknowledges that the ruling will effect drug company profits. "The issue of Big Pharma profits is a big one, of course," he says, "and the Myers decision is perhaps most relevant where it states, "a valid debate exists in the medical/psychiatric community as to the safety and effectiveness of the [drugs]."
"This is judicial confirmation," he explains, "that the safety and efficacy of these psychiatric drugs has not really been established and can be used to support that contention."
"Most importantly in my mind," Mr Gottstein continued, "is that if the Myers stricture that people can't be forced to take these unwanted drugs if there are less restrictive alternatives results in these non-drug approaches being used, that will directly cut down on their use. "
"The key ruling that I think can be used to benefit other people who are faced with forced drugging," he advises, "is that under the Myers decision the state can't force drug people if there is a less restrictive alternative."
"This can be used to require that such alternatives be supported," he added.
"While the Supreme Court ruling is only binding in Alaska," says patient advocate, Vince Boem, "the ruling can be cited as persuasive authority in other states, and the legal theories involved can serve as a road map for attorneys arguing similar cases."
Faith Myers, the plaintiff in the case, said of the decision, "It makes all of my suffering worthwhile."
While acknowledging that some people find psychiatric drugs helpful, Mr Gottstein said he pursued this case because, in addition to the drugs' serious physical health risks, he is concerned about the rights of those who find the drugs both unhelpful and intolerable.
"No other field of medicine allows this sort of forced treatment," he points out.
"For people who want to try non-drug approaches," he explains, "the research is very clear that many will have much better long-term outcomes, including complete recovery after being diagnosed with serious mental illness."
"This decision restores the rights of those people to pursue that potential," he states.
"Of course," he says, "there are many people who see psychiatrists and voluntarily, even eagerly, take psychiatric medications."
And he "has absolutely no complaint about this," he states.