by Leah Willis
Two S.J. Quinney College of Law students under the supervision of Professor John Tehranian appeared before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on December 6, 2007. Third year students Maren Larson and Emily Wegener volunteered for the pro bono project while enrolled in Professor Tehranian’s Constitutional Law II course in Spring semester of last year.
The case was brought by Charles Christman, a civilly committed sex offender residing at Atascadero State Hospital, a forensic mental health facility. Christman claims that staff psychiatrists at the hospital administered to him (and other pedophiliac patients) the drug Leuprolide, or Lupron, without fully disclosing all possible side effects.
Lupron is “an anti-androgen typically used on patients with uterine and prostate cancer,” according to the appellate brief. In Christman’s case, Lupron was given experimentally to aid in suppressing sexual urges. Christman says that over the course of treatment he developed osteoporosis, which is characterized by significant bone density loss. Furthermore, he claims that he was never informed that Lupron has been shown to cause that particular debilitating disease. As a result, the plaintiff-appellant is arguing that he did not have enough information to make a rational decision in granting informed consent.
The brief states that “the district court granted summary judgment to the defendants acting in their individual capacity to on plaintiffs’ [Christman and group of similarly situated plaintiffs] Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment claims. In both of these rulings, the district court ignored critical disputes over material facts and erred in its application of relevant law.” Therefore, Christman is seeking prospective injunctive relief (against receiving Lupron treatment in the future and to ensure that other patients are fully informed of all possible side effects) and monetary damages.
No decision has been handed down yet; Tehranian, Larson and Wegener expect a ruling to be made in the next several months.
“It was an invaluable experience,” says Larson of the impact this project has had on preparing for a legal career. “I learned how to take a punch. Appearing in court is certainly less terrifying than it used to be.”
The complete oral argument, case number 06-55572, can be heard here