Decision to seek commitment. Psychiatric decision making in a legal context

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1982 Apr;39(4):447-51. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.1982.04290040047007.


In seeking to commit patients, psychiatrists have often been accused of pursuing ends other than those prescribed by the law, but empiric data have been lacking on those factors that influence commitment decisions. In this study 34 clinicians, most of whom were psychiatrists, responded to 65 requests by voluntary patients for discharge from the hospital. The legal criteria governing commitment were found to be significantly related to the decision. Those nonlegal criteria that seemed most consistently to play a significant role in the decision seemed closely related to one of the legal criteria. The clinicians' affective responses to their patients and the patients' personality traits did not play a significant role in the decision. These findings suggest that this group of clinicians was acting in substantial accordance with the dangerousness requirements of the commitment law.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Commitment of Mentally Ill* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Dangerous Behavior
  • Decision Making*
  • Forensic Psychiatry* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Massachusetts
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mentally Ill Persons*
  • Personality
  • Psychiatry*