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Prep for Involuntary Committment Hearing September 10, 2009

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Committment Hearing, Involuntary Committment, Mental Hospital, Psych Ward.
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Setting the Scene:  In the State of Washington, before committing a person to a psychiatric hospital involuntarily, the hospital has to go to court to establish that the person they want to commit actually belongs there. The hospital has 72 hours to go before a judge to prove that person needs to be committed before they have to release that person. I was committed on a Wednesday.

Devon, my court appointed attorney, met with me in my room. She explained she was appointed by the court as my legal counsel, but that I could get other legal counsel if I wanted to.  John, my personal attorney, was in Turkey so I was stuck until he returned.  I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of this unknown woman representing me at such an important event, but I had no option. I told her that I was OK with her representing me.

She explained that I could either be involuntarily committed or voluntarily committed. The difference between the two was that with voluntary commitment, I could leave the mental hospital whenever I wanted to.  With involuntary commitment, I couldn’t leave until the hospital personnel said that I was ready to leave. The choice was a no-brainer.  Of course I wanted to be voluntarily committed because I would have packed up and left that very day if I could.  So I tried to convince my attorney that I wanted to be voluntarily committed, that I really did want to be there, and that I really did want to stay as long as I needed to in order to get “cured”.  Devon said  she would see what she could do, leaving me with the impression that this would be a real hearing, which meant that I would  talk to the judge directly and plead my case that my commitment was a terrible mistake.

Devon explained that I could discontinue my medication until I was formally committed, noting that some patients thought it made their thinking fuzzy. As a testament to the effect the medication was already having on my judgment,  I elected to continue it, despite the fact that the nursing staff gave me pills which I took without asking what I was taking or why.

Devon said that I had the option of not attending the hearing at all and just allowing her to represent me.  I declined her strange offer.  In retrospect, that should have been my first clue that the hearing was simply a formality,  nothing more than a  “Kangaroo Court”.  Its purpose was to fulfill the letter of the law but not the intent. My fate was already sealed.

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