Krauthammer's latest article deals with the clear mental instability of Aaron Alexis and how it applies to his slaughter of twelve innocent victims at the Washington Navy Yard, and the studied disregard to such cases where massacres can be avoided. I commend it to you for its Occam-like quality.
He writes of a psychotic break that Alexis had in Newport, Rhode Island last month, wherein the police responded and then departed, unable to do anything other than to recommend that he get some sleep. Krauthammer then gives an example of what would have happened if Alexis were brought to him in his capacity of the psychiatrist on duty at the ER of the Massachusetts General Hospital in 1978, which would have resulted in care up to and including commitment:
That's what a compassionate society does. It would no more abandon this man to fend for himself than it would a man suffering a stroke. And as a side effect, that compassion might even extend to potential victims of his psychosis – in the event, remote but real, that he might someday burst into some place of work and kill 12 innocent people….
I know the civil libertarian arguments. I know that involuntary commitment is outright paternalism. But paternalism is essential for children because they don't have a fully developed rational will. Do you think Alexis was in command of his will that night in Newport?
We cannot, of course, be cavalier about commitment. We should have layers of review, albeit rapid. But it's both cruel and reckless to turn loose people as lost and profoundly suffering as Alexis, even apart from any potential dangerousness.
More than half of those sleeping on grates have suffered mental illness. It's a national scandal. It's time we recalibrated the pendulum that today allows the mentally ill to die with their rights on – and, rarely but unforgivably, take a dozen innocents with them.