Michigan’s Revised Mental Health Code

This note will evaluate the three chapters of the Michigan Code which present the most significant legislative attempts to safeguard the rights of the mentally ill. Chapter Four of the Code extends several traditional due process guarantees to the civil commitment process. By guaranteeing the right to adequate notice, the right to be present at the hearing, the right to be represented by counsel, and the right to notice of trial by jury, the Code offers better protection from unwarranted commitment. However, due to the difficulty of defining mental illness and accurately identifying those in need of treatment, the possibility of improper commitment still exists. Chapter Seven protects the rights of residents of mental health facilities by ensuring that each resident receives treatment suited to his condition, and by restricting the use of psychosurgery, electroshock therapy, restraint, and seclusion. While these statutes are often vague and permit the hospital to exercise its discretion, the administrative rules of the Department of Mental Health augment the Code, and often provide the necessary substance to a broadly worded statute. Chapter Ten of the Code governs the disposition of persons found incompetent to stand trial or acquitted by reason of insanity, and protects them from indeterminate commitments by requiring the state either to commit them pursuant to the civil commitment process or to release them from custody. It is these criminal provisions of the Code which have been most criticized by those who fear that the extension of due process and equal protection safeguards to criminals has resulted in inadequate protection of the rights of society.