Laws re Insanity and Commitment

Reply Thu 19 Apr, 2007 04:40 am
I've been watching the news. I'm confused about the laws concerning commitment of someone who is considered "insane."

People can be committed against their will if they pose an "imminent" threat. What does imminent mean? Do such people have to be walking around with a weapon? Actually threaten somone?

People can be kept in an institution for up to 72 hours--against their will. Then what?

Someone is sent for a psychiatric evaluation and is deemed a threat to himself or others. This person remains in the institution and is treated with drugs. The medication appears to be working. The person is released with the understanding that he will continue taking his meds. He doesn't. Does anyone know? Can anything be done about it? Is there any kind of follow up?

Someone is sent for a psychiatric evaluation and is deemed a threat to himself or others. This person remains in the institution and is treated with drugs. The drugs don't appear to be working. How long can the person be kept in the institution? Indefinitely?

If someone is suffering from a serious mental illness, how can this person make a "rational" decision concerning institutionalization? In essense, how does one define "free will" or just plain "will" for such a person. (Can't be held against their will) I'm not talking about someone who is a threat necessarily. Just someone who has some kind of mental disease.

Someone is sent for a mental evaluation. This person is deemed to have a mental illness but is not a danger to himself. Can this person be institutionalized regardless?

I don't mean to get too technical, but the laws regarding people who are not rational seem just a bit meshuga to me.
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Reply Thu 19 Apr, 2007 04:56 am
It has been awhile Roberta, but I remember the laws in NY when I worked in mental health. If two physicians signed committment papers, (one had to be a psychiatrist, the other any other doctor), a person could be held, against his will, for 72 hours. In the papers, the doctors would have to say that the person was dangerous to himself or others.

After 72 hours, the person could sign himself out of the hospital. If the docs thought he was dangerous, they could send the person to court, where a judge would decide whether the person could legally be kept involuntarily.

I tried to avoid committing someone involuntarily as much as possible. I believed that it was a horrible trauma to be carted off in cuffs by police, and avoided it at all costs.

I developed a technique whereby I was able to convince people that they needed to be in the hospital for their own good, so that they would go to the hospital voluntarily. I had a pretty good record of fostering hospitalizations voluntarily.

The only exceptions were the paranoid schizophrenics. They never thought that there was anything wrong with them. Shocked

We had a case where the person was a severe paranoid schizophrenic, and was decompensating. We could not do anything until she reached the point where she was no longer eating. THEN the doctors said that she was dangerous to herself, and could be legally committed.

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Reply Thu 19 Apr, 2007 05:05 am
Thanks, Phoenix. You've put together in a way that is clear some of the bits of info I've been picking up.
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