Objective and methods: The history, motivation and consequences of the New York State "Kendra's Law" as of August 1999 are reviewed.
Results: "Kendra's Law" was the consequence of the killing of a young woman, Kendra W., by a schizophrenic patient later convicted for second degree murder. Before, he had been repeatedly rejected when he sought treatment in state-run psychiatric facilities and was expelled several times from long-term hospitals despite a long history of violent behaviour when untreated. "Kendra's Law" now entitles physicians, case workers, roommates and families of untreated mentally ill persons to seek a court order forcing a patient to comply with treatment and, at the same time, compelling mental health institutions to grant this treatment. Additionally, the law and another bill signed in November 1999 provided for additional funding for the underfinanced state-run mental health system.
Conclusion: "Kendra's Law" illustrates a bidirectional attempt to cope with the revolving door treatment situation of mentally ill in the State of New York by additional funding and additional possibilities to enforce treatment. The law illustrates the fundamental conflict between individual autonomy and the need for treatment of people suffering from severe mental illness.