How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site. Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask TexLaw Your Own Question
TexLaw, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 4430
Experience:  Lead trial/International commercial attorney licensed 11 yrs
Type Your Legal Question Here...
TexLaw is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

My friend in Oklahoma City had her 21-year-old son hospitalized

This answer was rated:

My friend in Oklahoma City had her 21-year-old son hospitalized on a voluntary basis with a psychiatrist's authorization yesterday morning in a Psych Unit at a local hospital. He is on a 72-hour hold because he is suicidal. More than 36 hours have passed. The doctor has never shown up at any point in time and has not answered my friend's phone calls. What do you recommend?

Zachary D. Norris :


Zachary D. Norris :

Are you there?

Zachary D. Norris :

I'm going to switch us over to Q&A format. We can continue our dialogue, it just won't be instantaneous. Please look for my message.

You have two options:

1. Contact the hospital administration and demand that the hospital's psychologist/psychiatrist examine your friends son immediately.


2. Find another psychiatrist to come to the hospital to conduct the examination. You will want to contact psychiatrists in your local area and ask them if they can come to the hospital to conduct the examination, stating that the hospital's staff psychiatrist has not performed the requested examination.

I think option 1 is the best for now. May I ask if you and your friend are trying to have the son committed?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I am confused by your question. My friend's son has already been committed, but the problem is that the psychiatrist has never seen him or spoken to him or his mother. It has now been about 37 hours with no word from the psychiatrist--no visits, and he has not returned any of his mother's phone calls.
You've got him in a 72 hour hold, which is not the same as the civil commitment process. A civil commitment is him going to a long term stay facility and only being released once a psychiatrist says he can be released.

They will release him after 72 hours. If you want him to go through a longer process of care, then you need to have him committed in a mental illness treatment facility, either voluntarily or through the courts.

That being said, I think your best option is to contact the hospital administrator and see if they are going to get a psychiatrist in their before the 72 hour period is up. If not, then you need to hire one to go in and make an evaluation.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Zachary, I want to be fair to you, but, between all the spelling errors in your response, and my feeling that we are somehow not communicating clearly, I am finding this process to be difficult and distracting.The issue here is that I want to know what liability the psychiatrist has for abandoning my friend's son to this point. Am I missing something here? This young man is there at a major hospital in a mental ward as an in-patient. The initial, voluntary commitment is for 72 hours. I think that, had he not been abandoned by his psychiatrist, that he would have been willing to voluntarily commit to more time. Now, his trust has been violated, and I fear that he will not be willing to seek more assistance. What is the psychiatrist's legal responsibility here?
Thank you for clarifying your question. It is often hard to have a discussion in this type of format regarding complicated legal issues. Thank you for bearing with me and I will endeavour to answer your question.

1. He has been placed in a psychiatric wing of a hospital for a 72 hour voluntary commitment. 36 hours have passed so far and he has not been seen by the psychiatrist to your knowledge.

Has the psychiatrist done anything in breach of his/her legal responsibilities as a doctor?

Answer: Not yet. A 72 hour voluntary commitment only requires that he be placed under the supervision of a psychiatrist. That means that as long as the staff is watching him and he does not have any episodes which require emergency treatment by the psychiatrist, then no standard of care has been violated. However, if the psychiatrist fails to evaluate him at all during the 72 hour period, then there may be two potential claims: 1) against the psychiatrist for malpractice, and 2) against the hospital for breach of contract.

The fact that the psychiatrist has not come to treat him since he has been in is not illegal. In fact, the psychiatrist could claim that a proper evaluation could not be performed until after the 72 hour period has passed, especially if this case involves drug abuse or requires sedation. Of course, you haven't answered my questions regarding the nature of his commitment so I'm not sure how else to advise you.

What you should realize though is that neither you nor your friend who is the mother have any rights whatsoever in this situation. He is over the age of 21 and has entered the hospital voluntarily. The duty of the hospital and psychiatrist are owed to him only, not to you and not to his mother.

I see you have left me a negative rating. If you are not satisfied with my service, instead of rating me poorly, you could let me know. This is probably also what you should do with the hospital. If you demand that the hospital provide treatment then perhaps you will get them to order the psychiatrist to either make an evaluation or communicate with you about it.

If you are not satisfied with this response, let me know, and I will opt out and let another expert try and answer your questions to your satisfaction.

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thank you for your response. I am going to upgrade my evaluation of you after we finish. I appreciate your continuing to try to help me. However, I do not understand what your questions are which you feel I have not answered. Please clarify for me what you need answered. Have I not made it clear as to what the nature of his commitment is? He is psychotic and suicidal but agreed to enter this major city hospital's mental ward as an in-patient on an initial basis of a 72-hour, voluntary hold. My friend spoke with this psychiatrist in advance of his being admitted to the hospital by phone to arrange the hospitalization. Prior to this phone conversation, her son had seen the psychiatrist once at his private office. Does that make things clearer? Thank you--not my intention to insult you--just a bit frustrated because I don't feel like we are communicating very clearly. Please let me know what I can do from my end to clarify. Thanks!
I guess I'm feeling the same way. Thank you again for responding. I'm truly not worried about the rating...what I'm concerned about is you getting the service you paid for.

Also, thank you for clarifying further. I suspect this is a very hard time you are going through along with your friend. The fact that the psychiatrist knew that the son was going to be hospitalized does not change the fact that the psychiatrist has not yet breached the standard of care. So there is no medical malpractice per se yet.

If the psychiatrist simply refuses to come in during the hospitalization then this is a breach of contract unless there is some harm that comes about as a result. The psychiatrist was hired to do something and is not doing it. If there is some resultant harm, such as an injury, then this would give rise to a malpractice claim.

For instance if the son (God forbid) commits suicide after being released, then there would be a strong claim for malpractice.

If the psychiatrist doesn't come in at all, then there is also a claim against the hospital for breach of contract. The hospital was supposed to have him evaluated by a psychiatrist and this has not taken place. The hospital administration is the one in charge of organizing his treatment.

So, to sum up, at this point, there is no legal recourse against the psychiatrist or the hospital. Your best course of action is to put pressure on the hospital administrator to get a psychiatrist in their to treat your friend's son.

I'm afraid you won't be satisfied with this answer, so I'm open to letting this question back onto the forum to get another expert to review. Please let me know if that is what you want and I'll be happy to release the question.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thank you for continuing to try to help me. I really appreciate it. This is a very frustrating and frightening time for us. If I have been hard on you, please forgive me. I am satisfied with your answer now and didn't understand before exactly how this process works. I thought I had to evaluate your response before continuing to communicate with you. I always try to give people a chance first. Will I now receive the opportunity to upgrade your rating? I realize that your only goal here is to clarify things for me, rather than to just get a good rating. But I am truly satisfied now, and I very much appreciate your patience and expertise. Thank you!
I'm glad we got your question answered. I'm not quite sure how you can change your rating. There should be an option for it somewhere on the page or someway to simply "accept" the answer or rate the answer again.

I hope things work out for you guys and I hope your friend's son gets better.

TexLaw and other Legal Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX think that I have figured out how to change the rating. I am upgrading it to excellent. You have given me a lot of time, and I hope that you can get some rest. Thanks again!