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Ask the Mental Health Expert Archives 2001-2004

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Violated Rights

Q. My program director recently claimed that I made threatening remarks to him when he fired me. I have a history of suicide attempt at another hospital which I had failed to disclose but he found out about it from another employee.

When I refused to have a psychiatric evaluation, he made plans behind my back with a hospital psychiatrist to have me involuntarily committed. Even though I did not threaten anyone, the psychiatrist believed my boss. Who could I contact regarding the ethics of such a thing?

A. I can certainly understand why you are upset about this. From your account of things, it doesn't sound like you were treated with very much respect or sensitivity. That, of course, is not necessarily the same problem as a legal or ethical infraction on the part of your program director or the psychiatrist who admitted you.

Certainly, if you feel your legal rights have been violated, contacting an attorney with experience in mental health issues may be your best course of action. If, after doing so, you are both convinced that the psychiatrist in question acted improperly, you may consider notifying the local Board of Registration in Medicine.

If the ethics you have in mind refer to your program director, you may want to contact the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) and ask to speak with someone regarding your rights as an employee. You can reach the NAMI national hotline at 800-950-NAMI. Another good source of mental health advocacy is the Bazelon Center of Mental Health Law, a non-profit legal advocacy organization (http:www.bazelon.org/). Good luck with your efforts.

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May 2003

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