Lantz v. Coleman

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Lantz v. Coleman[1] is a Connecticut superior court case that addresses the constitutionality of forcibly feeding prison inmates on hunger strikes.[2]


The defendant in the case, William B. Coleman, is a British national who was sentenced to eight years in state prison in 2005 for sexually assaulting his wife.[2] She had allegedly been raped two days after Coleman had applied for custody of their children.[3] He was convicted, and appealed, arguing that his wife had falsely accused him of rape in order to gain custody of their children.[4] The conviction was affirmed on appeal in 2007.[1]

In September 2007, Coleman stopped eating solid foods to protest what he perceived as corruption in the Connecticut legal system.[3] Some time later, he started to refuse all liquids and nutritional supplements, other than occasional milk, juice and water during the Christmas season, to spare his family from his death during the holidays.[1] During this time, his weight dropped from 250 pounds (110 kg) to no more than 100 pounds (45 kg).[1]

The commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Correction, Theresa C. Lantz, sued for an injunction permitting the prison to force-feed Coleman.[1]

Coleman was assisted by the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut in presenting his case to Judge James Graham of the Connecticut Superior Court.[5] On May 21, 2009, the court issued the injunction allowing the prison to force-feed Coleman.[1]


The Coleman case has pitted several of the nation's leading bioethicists and physicians against the Connecticut prison system. The University of Pennsylvania's Arthur Caplan, who testified for Coleman at the trial, wrote in the Harford Courant:

Prisoners do not have many rights while in jail. But, one right they do have is the right to protest including the decision not to eat or drink. As horrible as it is to watch someone starve when they need not do so, the state of Connecticut should accept that a competent prisoner may make that choice. I hope that Coleman decides that he has made his point and ends his hunger-strike. But it is not right to use medical treatment to force him not to do so.[6]

New York University's Jacob M. Appel has called for the revocation of the medical licenses of Edward Blanchette and Suzanne Ducate, the physicians involved in Coleman's force feeding.[5]

See also[edit]