DAILY / MAY 7, 2014, VOL. 4, NO. 22   Send Feedback l View Online
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2014 APA's Annual Meeting Special Edition

APA Goes to Court

Paul Appelbaum, M.D.In the American court system, APA's Committee on Judicial Action plays different roles, from a concerned bystander to a full participant, said speakers at APA's 2014 annual meeting yesterday.

The committee joined with other mental health organizations in submitting an amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief in Hall v. Florida, a case argued in March in the U.S. Supreme Court. The brief opposed Florida's use of a fixed IQ score standard to determine a convict's eligibility for the death penalty.

"The court was not interested in the DSM-5 definition of intellectual disability," said Paul Appelbaum, M.D., the Dollard Professor of Psychiatry, Medicine, and Law and director of the Division of Law, Ethics, and Psychiatry at Columbia University. "They were looking for a bright line and focused [during oral argument] on the IQ test's standard error of measurement." (See psychiatric news.)

The committee also provides APA district branches and state associations with substantive help in cases with important professional implications, said Yale University's Howard Zonana, M.D. It has, for example, provided funds and review of appellate briefs in a New York state case involving issues of confidentiality, attorney-client privilege, and mandatory child abuse reporting.

In a third case, APA filed suit with others against Connecticut's Anthem Health Plans regarding certain nonquantitative treatment limitations, which it says violate the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, said Marvin Swartz, M.D., a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University.

"Being a party to a case is very expensive and so limits the number of cases APA can pursue," said Swartz. "But this is important for patients."




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