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July 8, 1968


JAMA. 1968;205(2):37-39. doi:10.1001/jama.1968.03140280015004

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Jailing of alcoholics for public drunkenness was upheld by the Supreme Court by a narrow five to four decision that ran counter to the trend of lower court decisions in recent years.

Dana L. Farnsworth, MD, chairman of the AMA's Council on Menon grounds that alcoholism is a disease.

At the same time, the court noted the lack of treatment facilities in this country and indicated a different judgement might have been handed down if it was "able to point to some clear promise of a O. Douglas, William Brennan, Jr., and Peter Stewart.

The dissenters argued that to punish an alcoholic for being drunk in public is to punish him for a condition that he cannot change.

A key issue in the case was whether alcoholics are powerless over their condition, or at least powerless to remain off the street. Marshall said:

"We are unable to conclude, on the