Civil Commitment: How Civil?

in Refusing Care

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2002 | ISBN: 9780226733975
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226733999 | DOI:
Civil Commitment: How Civil?

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This chapter sheds light on what the standard governing civil commitment should be. A central concern throughout is why and in what ways mentally ill people should be treated differently from other citizens. Addressing this concern is a crucial part of justifying any standard adopted. The commitment to permitting people to take self-harming and other-harming actions is somewhat tempered in certain situations—in ways that are both interesting and complicated—but it is at least the black-letter law. Theory and reason suggest that incompetency is highly relevant to whether one intervenes against people's wills. Only competently made choices deserve respect. Incompetent people are not in a position to decide: they cannot understand or evaluate information that is relevant to their choices or they cannot help choosing as they do. The possible basis for treating mentally ill people differently is that they are simply more likely to be dangerous than healthy people. There are significant costs in the civil commitment context of not intervening. These costs fall along a range. At one end is the suffering the ill person undergoes. At the other end of the spectrum, the person may completely lose his self-care skills and be unable to provide essential food, clothing, or shelter for himself. These are weighty consequences, but they must be balanced against the costs of intervening.

Keywords: civil commitment; intervening; mental illness; theory; self-harming

Chapter.  16675 words. 

Subjects: Medical and Healthcare Law

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