The right to refuse treatment in Oregon: A two‐year statewide experience

Sally L. Godard, Joseph D. Bloom, Mary H. Williams, Larry R. Faulkner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The right to refuse treatment seems well established for psychiatric patients. Individual states, however, have very different procedures for managing this right and for overriding the refusal. Oregon's administrative procedure for override depends on an evaluation by an independent examining psychiatrist. This article empirically examines the 432 refusals leading to override requests in three Oregon psychiatric institutions in 1983 and 1984. Treatment refusal was found to be a common occurrence in all age groups. Those who refused treatment were seriously ill, unemployed, single individuals with previous psychiatric hospitalizations. Most refused treatment because of denial of their illness or delusional thinking about medication. Most refusals were overridden following the independent psychiatrist's examination. Because of the significant cost of the override procedure to the patient and the mental health system, the authors propose a new procedure which combines parts of the current procedure with a requirement that, at the time of the civil commitment hearing, the judge makes a separate decision as to the patient's competency to make treatment decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-304
Number of pages12
JournalBehavioral sciences & the law
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1986
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law


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