New York State’s highest court has upheld a law that gives judges authority to force mentally ill people to comply with treatment, reports the New York Times. The statute is known as Kendra’s Law. It was enacted in 1999 after Kendra Webdale, 32, was killed when she was thrown in front of a subway train. The assailant was schizophrenic who was prone to violence but did not take his antipsychotic medicine. Nearly 40 other states have similar laws.
Lawyers for a mental patient argued that it violated the constitutional guarantee of due process because it did not require that a court declare a patient mentally incapacitated before forcing the patient into treatment. They maintained that it was unconstitutional to allow patients who refused to take their medicine to be detained for up to 72 hours for evaluation without a hearing.
“The state’s interest in immediately removing from the streets noncompliant patients previously found to be, as a result of their noncompliance, at risk of a relapse or deterioration likely to result in serious harm to themselves or others is quite strong,” Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye wrote in a 6-0 decision.
One official estimated that 1,500 to 2,000 people are under court order to receive outpatient treatment. “The numbers are increasing,” he said. Since the law was passed, courts have ordered that more than 3,000 people receive treatment.