Forced Medication at the Utah State Hospital (USH)

Fact Sheet
Updated: 10 months ago
Institutional Rights and Civil Liberties

Your Rights and Medication

When you come to the Utah State Hospital (USH) for mental health treatment, your treatment team may think you need medication. You have the right to choose to take medications or not to take medications. Even if you choose not to take medication, there are three times when you can be forced to take medication. These are:

  • if there is an emergency; 
  • if a court orders you to take medication; or,
  • if you have a forced medication hearing.

In Emergencies

If there is an emergency, you may be forced to take medication. An example of an emergency might be that you are in danger of hurting yourself or someone else.

Court Order

If a court orders it, you may be forced to take medication for medical or mental health treatment. There are forced medication hearings in court for patients on the forensic unit, which are sometimes called “Sell” hearings. If you want more information on “Sell” hearings, you should talk to your criminal defense attorney.

Forced Medication Hearings

USH can force you to take medication if they first hold a special hearing called a “Forced Medication Hearing.” Forced Medication Hearings can also be called “Involuntary Treatment Hearings.” At the hearing, medical professionals will decide if you need to take medication. If they decide that you are in danger of hurting yourself, or someone else, without medication, they can force you to take medication. If they decide you cannot take care of yourself without medication, they can force you to take medication (Jurasek v. Utah State Hospital, 158 F. 3d 506 (10th Cir. 1998) section 8: medicating adult patients D. Medication Hearing proceeding (iv) required criteria for medicating an adult patient).

These are not court hearings, they are medical hearings. Since it is not a court hearing, you cannot have an attorney present at the hearing. The hospital also cannot have an attorney present at the hearing. A judge does not make the decision at the hearing; instead, a group of medical professionals decide. This group of professionals must be people who are not on your treatment team. There are things the hospital must do to protect your rights at a Forced Medication Hearing. The hospital must:

  • Tell you about the hearing at least 24-hours in advance (section 8: medicating adult patients D. Medication Hearing proceeding (i) (1) patient received copy of the notice at least 24 hours prior to the scheduled hearing).
  • Let you attend the hearing.
  • Let your guardian attend the hearing.
  • Provide you with a “lay advisor.” Even though you can’t have an attorney present, the lay advisor can help. This person is the Patient Advocate. The lay advisor must know about mental illness, medication, and the side effects of medication. The Disability Law Center (DLC) is not allowed to go to these hearings with patients.
  • Let you talk at the hearing. You also have the right to present evidence, but if your behavior becomes disruptive, you can lose these rights.
  • Let you call witnesses to tell the staff about your condition.
  • Let you question witnesses being brought by the staff.

(section 8: medicating adult patients D. Medication Hearing Proceeding (iii) 2. “the patient has the following rights at the hearing: (1) to attend the hearing; (2) to present evidence on his/her behalf; (3) to call witnesses; and (4) to question witnesses called by committee members. Because the issue before the committee is purely medical in nature, neither the treating physician nor the patient has the right to legal representation at the hearing. The patient is assisted in their representation by a patient advocate.”).

(Washington v. Harper, 494 U.S. 210 (1990) “The procedures established by the Center are sufficient to meet the requirements of due process in all other respects, and we reject respondent’s argument to the contrary. The Policy provides for notice, the right to be present at an adversary hearing, and the right to present and cross-examine witnesses.”).

The medical professionals will listen to you, the witnesses, and your doctor. They will then make a decision about whether you need to be forced to take medication. If they decide that you can be forced to take medication, you may receive the medication as a pill, a drink, or a shot.

You Have the Right to Appeal

You have the right to appeal the decision to force you to take medication within 24-hours. To appeal, you must fill out an Appeal Form. The Patient Advocate, or your social worker, can help you fill it out. Even if you do not appeal, the hospital will automatically appeal for you. This is to protect your rights. The staff must make a decision about the appeal within 24-hours (section 8: medicating adult patients D. medication hearing proceeding (v) right to appeal).

What You Can Do To Get Help

If you have concerns about being forced to take medication, you can speak with your social worker. Ask your social worker to show you proof that you had a forced medication hearing, and complete a yellow “Statement of Concern” form. If you cannot find this form at the unit, ask staff for one. The patient advocate can help you fill out the form. Place the completed from in the appropriate box at the unit. It may take more than a week, but you will receive a response to your Statement of Concern.

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