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Article   |    
Mental Health Commitment: The State of the Debate, 1980
Loren H. Roth
Psychiatric Services 1980; doi:
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Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The American Psychiatric Association

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Abstract

This overview of recent mental health commitment litigation and statutes begins with the 1972 decision by a federal district court in Wisconsin that the state's procedures for commitment were constitutionally defective; the case, Lessard v. Schmidt, was a bellwether for the decade. By 1979 three major mental health cases concerning civil commitment reached and were decided by the U.S. Supreme Court—O'Connor v. Donaldson, Addington v. Texas, and Parham v. J. R. The author reviews the impact of changing standards and procedures on commitment and discusses in some detail the Addington and Parham cases. He feels that one lesson of those cases is that the positions of the main disputants in the commitment controversy—legal advocates and beleaguered professionals—must be compromised. He also discusses the logical culmination of the continuing controversy between law and psychiatry about civil commitment: the committed patient's right to refuse customary treatment.

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