Thursday, December 20, 2012

Involuntary commitment of mentally ill persons

Do schizophrenics understand they are mentally ill? Do their parents understand the extent of their illness, and are they successful in getting them the help they need? Do the laws that limit the time of their commitment also grant them the right to refuse medication? Stuart Schneiderman tackles these questions and more.

You can only hold an individual for a limited period of time in America.

In France, as noted yesterday, you can hold a dangerous person indefinitely.

The law grants schizophrenics a moral agency that they lack. Suffering from a brain disease, they do not even know that they are ill.

Bernstein explains:

People who are mentally ill often suffer from agnosia, or a lack of insight into the illness; they don’t believe they are sick. Family members or parents may not comprehend the extent of the illness or may not be able to control their loved one and get him help.

Some schizophrenics hear voices. They believe that the voices are real. There is no way you are going to convince them that the voices are not real.

The law that limits the time you can commit them also grants them the right to refuse medication.

We cringe at the idea of depriving an individual of his free will, but paranoid schizophrenics do not seem to possess the mental competence required to make a judgment.

Since their illness affects their brain, they lack certain basic mental capacity.

Of course, once Bruce murdered his mother, he was confined to a psychiatric facility indefinitely. Since that time, Bruce has been forced to take his medication and has made great progress.

Four years later Bernstein spoke to him on the telephone.

In her words:

When Bruce came to the phone on Tuesday, he was lucid and articulate. “I have never been this good since before I became ill, in my late teens or early 20s,” he says. He credits Abilify and his daily therapeutic treatments with helping to put his mind back together and says he plans never to stop taking the drug. “My mom would be here today if I’d taken the medication and had accepted that I had a mental illness instead of denying it,” he says.

Psychopharmacology has made extraordinary progress in the treatment of psychosis. The legal system has set up roadblocks that make it very difficult for those who need treatment to receive it.

Read more here:

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