Is water fluoridation legal?

Why fluoridated tap water is forced medical treatment, and why it should be illegal.

Drinking fluoridated water - risk to thyroid

During law school, I took a class on medical ethics. We looked at how the U.S. Supreme Court considered issues of medical treatment and issues of forced medical treatment.

One principle was repeatedly made clear by the Court over the last 100years: Everyone has the right to refuse any kind of medical treatment, for any reason. If a case were presented to the Supreme Court, how would it view fluoridated water in the context of forced medical treatment?  The Court would ask


1) whether fluoridated water is a medical treatment, and

2) whether fluoridated water programs are a forced medical treatment. Fluoride is a drug, meant to treat a disease (cavities). Fluoride is classified as a drug by the Food and Drug Administration, which states that “Fluoride, when used in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease in man or animal, is a drug that is subject to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation.”

According to the organizations that sponsor water fluoridation, water fluoridation is a medical treatment placed into most of our nation’s water supply. Can they legally do this? According to the U.S. Supreme Court, medical treatment must follow informed consent for such treatment; “…a surgeon who performs an operation without his patient’s consent commits an assault, for which he is liable in damages.”  

The Court has also stated that “The logical corollary of the doctrine of informed consent is that the patient generally possesses the right not to consent, that is, to refuse treatment.”

Our Supreme Court is particularly concerned about informed consent for good reason – The doctrine of informed consent is based on the principle that every individual has the right to be free from unwanted bodily intrusions. According to the Court, individuals have the right to refuse medical treatment even if the medical treatment could save their own life.  The effectiveness of the medical treatment does not negate an individual’s autonomy.  The Supreme Court wrote in 1997 that, “We have also assumed, and strongly suggested, that the Due Process Clause protects that traditional right to refuse unwanted lifesaving medical treatment.”

In effect, the Supreme Court has stated that all medical treatment must be precipitated by informed consent, and that any medical treatment can be refused, even if the medical treatment is commonly viewed as life saving.  Even if fluoride were beneficial, and the overwhelming evidence suggests that its not, everyone has the right to refuse it according to the highest Court in the United States.

If Fluoride is a medical treatment, and everyone has a right to refuse medical treatment, how can people refuse it when many municipalities add it to the water supply? Can the medical treatment of fluoridated tap water actually be considered forced?

Can you avoid fluoride if you live in an area that fluoridates its tap water?  What if you cannot afford to buy bottled water? What if you cannot afford an expensive fluoride filter? What if you or your children drink the water fountain at the park, or at school, or at a friend’s house?  What if you and your children eat food made with fluoridated water, such as a school lunch?  What if you eat at local restaurants that use fluoridated water for food and drinks? What if you eat out of a garden watered with fluoridated water? What if you drink local beer, wine, juice, or other beverages made with fluoridated water?  

Some families are fortunate and wealthy enough to afford a water filter.  But even after filtering all of your water in your home, how can you avoid drinking fluoridated water that is used for so many purposes in your city?  You would have to literally never eat a school lunch, never drink from a water fountain, never drink local beers and juices, never eat or drink at a restaurant, and never eat or drink at any other person’s home that is unfiltered.  More importantly, many, many people simply cannot afford to drink anything other than tap water.  

Water fluoridation is a forced medical treatment of a drug to treat a disease. If your city fluoridates your water, it is effectively impossible to avoid. Water fluoridation should be illegal according to The U.S. Supreme Court’s position on forced medical treatment.

Lakota Denton is a personal injury lawyer in Asheville, N.C.