Connecticut Legislature Permits Facilities to Administer Emergency Medication to Defendants Without Consent in Limited Circumstances
On July 1, 2019, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed into law Public Act No. 19-99 “An Act Concerning the Recommendations of the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Regarding Emergency Medication” (PA 19-99). PA 19-99 went into effect on the same date.
Existing law provides for certain court procedures a facility must follow in order to provide treatment without informed consent for psychiatric disabilities to defendant patients in the custody of the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. A facility includes any inpatient or outpatient hospital, clinic or other facility for the diagnosis, observation or treatment of persons with psychiatric disabilities. For patients incapable of giving informed consent, the facility can petition the probate court for the appointment of a conservator with limited powers, who would have the specific authority to give or withhold informed consent to the administration of medication on behalf of the patient. For patients capable but unwilling to give informed consent, the facility can petition the probate court to authorize the treatment.
PA 19-99 creates an exception for physicians and senior clinicians on duty to administer psychiatric treatment without obtaining consent from the patient, the conservator, or the probate court. The physician or the senior clinician on duty may, without the patient’s consent, order medication to treat the patient’s psychiatric disabilities when the physician or senior clinician determines by personal observation that obtaining consent would cause a medically harmful delay to the patient whose condition is of an extremely critical nature. This exception allows facilities to provide immediate treatment, when appropriate.
However, unless there is a serious risk of harm to the patient or others, PA 19-99 does not authorize involuntary treatment of any patient who, in the sincere practice of his or her religious beliefs, is being treated by prayer alone in accordance with his or her religious denomination.