Evaluations of Dangerousness

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Abstract

The Supreme Court decided in O'Connor v. Donaldson that mentally ill people who were not dangerous and who could survive safely in the community could not be kept in a mental hospital against their will. In 1976, a project evaluated the legality of the commitments of 107 patients in a State mental hospital. The review was conducted by three panels, each composed of a law student, a resident psychiatrist, and a social worker. Evaluations of a patient's dangerousness were made on the basis of information from the patient's hospital records, an interview with the patient's primary therapist at the hospital, and interviews with the patient. Analysis of project recommendations revealed that commitment decisions were more related to the clinical outlook of the evaluators than to the patient's behavior.

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