The Language of Involuntary Mental Hospitalization: A Study in Sound and Fury

Involuntary civil commitment is the business of hospitalizing and treating, without their consent, persons whom a court, with the aid of professional diagnosticians, determines to be psychologically disturbed or mentally ill. The purpose of the present study will be to demonstrate that the medical diagnoses of mental illness which justify involuntary civil commitment are achieved on the basis of at least unreliable and at worst invalid sets of diagnostic categories and assessments. For the purpose of determining the reliability of these diagnostic findings, the author selected a representative sample of the involuntary mental hospitalization proceedings of the Wayne County Probate Court, which serves the metropolitan Detroit area. Before setting forth the procedure and results, however, it is necessary to examine briefly the statutory basis for involuntary mental hospitalization.