Involuntary commitment is a topic that deserves to be studied closely. The law in Florida, called the Baker Act, after legislator Maxine Baker, is lengthy and includes language that the layperson often does not want to, nor has the time to sort through.
This brief article will clarify the fine distinction between “emergency treatment” for a patient who is being considered for possible involuntary commitment and a patient who is being involuntarily committed.
Per Florida Statute 394.463 Involuntary examination, “A person for whom an involuntary examination has been initiated who is being evaluated or treated at a hospital for an emergency medical condition specified in s. 395.002 must be examined by a receiving facility within 72 hours. The 72-hour period begins when the patient arrives at the hospital and ceases when the attending physician documents that the patient has an emergency medical condition.”
Per Florida Statute 395.002, as mentioned above, “ ‘Emergency medical condition’ means: (a) A medical condition manifesting itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity, which may include severe pain, such that the absence of immediate medical attention could reasonably be expected to result in any of the following:
1. Serious jeopardy to patient health, including a pregnant woman or fetus. 2. Serious impairment to bodily functions. 3. Serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part. (b) With respect to a pregnant woman: 1. That there is inadequate time to effect safe transfer to another hospital prior to delivery; 2. That a transfer may pose a threat to the health and safety of the patient or fetus; or 3. That there is evidence of the onset and persistence of uterine contractions or rupture of the membranes.
‘Emergency services and care’ means medical screening, examination, and evaluation by a physician, or, to the extent permitted by applicable law, by other appropriate personnel under the supervision of a physician, to determine if an emergency medical condition exists and, if it does, the care, treatment, or surgery by a physician necessary to relieve or eliminate the emergency medical condition, within the service capability of the facility.”
For individuals who are being involuntarily committed, yet are not necessarily being looked at for a “Emergency medical condition” the following applies (per Florida Statute 394.459 Rights of patients.)
“Each person who remains at a receiving or treatment facility for more than 12 hours shall be given a physical examination by a health practitioner authorized by law to give such examinations, within 24 hours after arrival at such facility.”
The five day period is in regards to when a hearing will be held to decide what is to happen regarding the continued commitment or release of the patient.(Per Florida Statute 394.467 Involuntary inpatient placement) “The court shall hold the hearing on involuntary inpatient placement within 5 days, unless a continuance is granted. The hearing shall be held in the county where the patient is located and shall be as convenient to the patient as may be consistent with orderly procedure and shall be conducted in physical settings not likely to be injurious to the patient's condition. If the court finds that the patient's attendance at the hearing is not consistent with the best interests of the patient, and the patient's counsel does not object, the court may waive the presence of the patient from all or any portion of the hearing. The state attorney for the circuit in which the patient is located shall represent the state, rather than the petitioning facility administrator, as the real party in interest in the proceeding.”
For more information about patients’ rights, go here: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statuTes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&
The Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Florida is a non-profit watchdog organization that investigates and exposes psychiatric abuse and educates the public about their rights in the field of mental health. We do not promote the use of the Baker Act. Instead, we provide factual information regarding involuntary commitment so each individual and their families, can protect their rights if they have been Baker Acted and so that Floridians understand how to protect their rights at all times.
CCHR Florida provides only facts and does not provide medical or legal advice.
Our office recommends that an individual seek a competent medical examination by a non-psychiatric medical professional.