Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mental Health and "Gun Control"

This is a strange confluence of two seemingly unrelated items. Yesterday, the New York legislature passed a far-ranging "gun control" agenda, one portion of which apparently requires "mental health professionals to report patients they believe could harm themselves or others."

As we learned yesterday, HIPAA privacy regs don't seem to prohibit this, but that doesn't really address the underlying problem: just because we can do something doesn't (necessarily) mean that we should. In 2002's "Minority Report," the police can arrest a potential perp under the concept of "pre-crime." While that's an interesting sci-fi "hook," is that really where we want to be?

On the one hand, there's no question that mentally unstable folks could pose a threat, but I think it's more nuanced than that: are we really going to lock people up because they might become dangerous? I realize that there's a difference between "reporting" and arresting, but what would be the point of the former if the latter wasn't a potential outcome? I have an issue with this – it’s related to our discussion the other day about the young lady having the double mastectomy because she might get breast cancer someday. In that case, though, it’s her choice. This one is the state (“government”) deciding. Not exactly a slam-dunk.

We talk a lot here at IB about "risk," and that's appropriate (after all, insurance is all about risk - or at least it used to be). So we have the risk that a mentally unstable person could commit violent crimes, versus the risk that society (or its duly appointed agents) might abuse an individual's rights. To paraphrase another iconic movie, do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?

Or the one?

[Hat Tip: FoIB Holly R]
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