Can I be forced to stay in a psychiatric facility?

1. Understand your rights if you’re younger than 16

You're an informal patient if:

  • a doctor has decided you cannot understand your own health care,
  • another person, known as a (SDM) makes your health-care decisions for you, and
  • your SDM decided you need to be in a .

Usually, if you're an informal patient who is 16 years or older, then you don't have to stay in the facility if you don't want to. The facility cannot make you stay.

But if the person who makes your health-care decisions has an official document that gives them permission to make decisions about you being in a psychiatric facility, then you must stay in the facility even if you don't want to. But this is a rare situation.

Official documents

There are 2 types of official documents that give someone else the right to decide whether you should stay in a psychiatric facility:

  1. A guardian of the person document. This is a court order a judge makes. The order says that you need someone to make health-care decisions for you. The court order also says who that person will be. Usually it's a close family member, for example, a parent.
  2. A power of attorney for personal care (POA) with advanced directives. This is a legal document you signed in the past. You make the decision to sign this document when you realize that you need help making health-care decisions and you want to give up the right to refuse . The document gives someone you trust permission to make health-care decisions for you.

If your guardianship order or POA doesn't clearly say that the person who makes your health-care decisions is allowed to put you in a psychiatric facility, then you don't have to stay there. You can leave whenever you like.

If your document clearly says that the person can put you in a psychiatric facility, then you're not allowed to leave unless that person gives you permission.

If you disagree with their decision, your next step depends on the type of document you have:

  • If you have a court order for a guardian of the person, you have to ask the court to change that order.
  • If you have a POA for personal care and you're capable of doing so, you can cancel or revoke your POA.
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