6 Wake Forest Intramural L. Rev. 21 (1970)
Justifications for Medical Commitment--Real or Illusory, The; Siegel, Loren J.

handle is hein.journals/wflr6 and id is 49 raw text is: THE JUSTIFICATIONS FOR MEDICAL
COMMITMENT-REAL OR ILLUSORY
Loren J. Siegel*
INTRODUCTION
Most people prefer not to think about the quandary of the mental
patient. In a society where eccentricity is more feared than corruption,
such apathy is not surprising. Yet, it has been estimated that one out
of every ten Americans will, at some point during his lifetime, suffer
from a mental disorder sufficiently incapacitating to require
hospitalization.
For most people, the term mental illness evokes a number of
stereotypic images-the homicidal maniac, the village idiot, or the
immobile vegetable. But these vagaries tend to obfuscate the real
and prodigious issues and problems surrounding the definition and
disposition of the mentally ill.
Although admission rates continue to soar, there is a growing
concern that the state mental institution is an awkward anachronism
and that the state statutes which perpetuate and legitimize.them are far
behind in the movement towards greater constitutional and statutory
protection for all citizens.
The mentally ill have been afforded by law the least protection of
any class of people subject to involuntary commitment. State
legislatures have established standardized codes of criminal procedure
to protect the rights of criminal defendants. In New York State, drug
addicts, mental defectives and persons suffering from communicable
diseases are all entitled to judicial hearings and/or jury trials prior to
commitment. But the rights of the civilly commitable mentally ill have
been rather conspicuously neglected. They are unique in that they can
be deprived of their liberty without having been convicted of a crime,
and without the benefit of prior substantive or even procedural scrutiny
as to the propriety of their commitment.
There is no paucity of scholarship on the question of the mentally
ill and their constitutional deprivations. The problem has been the
subject of research, criticism and reportage by muckraking journalists,
apostate psychiatrists, sociologists and lawyers.2 But despite the
*Assistant to the Director, Civil Liberties and Mental Illness Project, New York Civil
Liberties Union. B.A., Bennington College.
1. The Association of the Bar of the City of New York, Mental Illness and Due Process,
(Ithaca, New York, 1962) p. v.
2. See. e.g.. T. Szasz, Law, Liberty and Psychiatry (1963); A. DERSHOWITZ, J. KATZ and
J. GOLDSTEIN, PSYCHOANALYSIS, PSYCHIATRY & LAW (1967); E. GOFFMAN, ASYLUMS (1961); T.
SCHEFF, BEING MENTALLY ILL (1966).

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