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On Involuntary Commitment and Informed Consent

A Wall Street Journal article about a Los Angeles lawyer’s slide into psychosis and homelessness called on Social Welfare Professor David Cohen for insights on effective paths of mental health care. The article described a conundrum for society: how to balance the rights of individuals who may not feel they need any help with a desire to protect their basic physical and mental health. California is one of a number of states that have expanded laws allowing involuntary commitment for reasons other than violence. But evidence that civil commitment helps people recover is lacking, and many doctors are too quick to use medication to subdue patients, Cohen said. “We try to deactivate people with antipsychotic drugs,” he said. “We’ve lost the art of trying to figure out how to tackle this with the person in front of us.” Cohen also spoke to the Wildflower Alliance about the professional and moral obligation to obtain informed consent from patients.


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