CA Murder Case Raises Issues of Involuntary Treatment of Mentally Ill


Candy and Al Dewitt of California spent years trying to save their son, only to see him cycle in and out of psychiatric hospitals with schizophrenia. Then Daniel, 23, was in jail, accused of killing a stranger as he searched for his imaginary fiancee. Daniel is in a state hospital, ruled incompetent to stand trial for the slaying of Peter Cukor, 67. The San Francisco Chronicle says he is also at the fore of a pivotal debate in mental health, with his and Cukor’s family saying the bloodshed could have been averted if he had been compelled to accept treatment instead of being set loose.

About 1 percent of adults in this country have schizophrenia, which can blur the line between what is real and what is not. Many lead rewarding lives and only a small percentage commit violence. Studies have linked violence and suicide with psychotic symptoms such as paranoid delusions. Nine times since 2007, Daniel had been hospitalized involuntarily under state law. His parents pushed for long-term treatment, but he was typically released within days. The Dewitts have joined a movement pushing for controversial reforms that would expand involuntary treatment for people who frequently end up in jails or emergency rooms.

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