Appeals court dismisses case challenging forced medication Lower court's ruling favored mental patients

December 13, 1997|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

The state's top court ducked yesterday the thorny issue of whether involuntarily committed mental patients may be forced to take drugs they do not want if they do not pose a danger inside the institution.

The Court of Appeals dismissed the case of a former Crownsville Hospital Center patient as moot. It erased the intermediate appellate court's precedent-setting ruling that would have made harder for psychiatrists to force medication on patients who refuse it.

But the issue could arise again, as nearly half of the 175 or so patients a year who are forcibly medicated appeal psychiatrists' medication orders.

Both sides found something to hail.

"It is not the result that we were ultimately hoping for, but it is better than the situation before they acted. It removed from the landscape a decision that imposed a significant burden on the state," said Andrew H. Baida, assistant attorney general.

"It is positive that they did not do anything to disagree with our position," said Cathy S. Surace, managing attorney for the Maryland Disability Law Center, which represented David Martin.

Martin was diagnosed at the age of 35 with paranoid schizophrenia when he was committed in 1995. He was discharged in 1996 after taking the medication he had earlier refused. In the spring, he was studying to be a minister and

seeking work as a guard.

Pub Date: 12/13/97

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