ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled Tuesday that a Cumberland mental health facility did not violate a patient’s rights in forcing her to take medication in 1993.
The court, voting 3-2, affirmed a lower court ruling that Arlena Beeman’s due process rights were sufficiently protected by Maryland law.
Beeman, 63, was committed involuntarily at the Finan Center in Cumberland when her doctors, with the backing of a review panel, gave her a shot against her will. Her lawyers argued that her schizophrenia prevented her from understanding her right to appeal.
Comparing the existing legal protections to “telling a deaf person about their rights without the aid of a sign language interpreter,” they sued, asking for an automatic mental competency hearing to make sure patients understand their rights.
Beeman’s attorneys from the Maryland Disability Law Center could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Assistant Attorney General David R. Morgan, who represented the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said determining each patient’s mental competence would delay the return of many to society.
“We are trying to do the best we can [for] our patients by treating them quickly and returning them to the community,” he said.
Morgan also questioned the potential cost, given that there were more than 95 review panels approving treatment in fiscal year 1995. The issue is one for the Legislature, rather than the courts, Morgan said. -30-