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IN RE RYAN

September 29, 1942

In re RYAN


The opinion of the court was delivered by: BARD

This action arises on a petition for a writ of habeas corpus to secure the release of William Ryan from confinement in the Institute of Mental Hygiene in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A return was filed on behalf of the respondent in which it is alleged that the confinement is in conformity with the provisions of Section 302 of the Mental Health Act of Pennsylvania. Considerable expert testimony was adduced before me relating to the mental condition of Ryan and the advisability of his confinement in this or in any institution.

The Mental Health Act of 1923, Act of July 11, 1923, P.L.998, 50 P.S. §§ 1-213, provides a comprehensive system for the commitment and custody of mentally ill persons. Section 302 of the Act, 50 P.S. § 42, which permits a mental hospital to receive in custody, without court order, a person alleged to be mentally ill and upon which respondent in the case at bar has authority for the confinement of Ryan, provides a number of safeguards against its abuse.This section reads:

 "§ 42. Admission to hospital on application of relative or friend

 "Whenever it shall appear that any person is mentally ill, or in such condition as to be benefited by or need such care as is required by persons mentally ill, the superintendent of any hospital for mental diseases may receive and detain such person, on the written application of any relative or friend, or the legal guardian of such person or any other responsible citizen, and on the certificate of two qualified physicians that said person is mentally ill and is in need of treatment and care in a hospital for mental diseases.

 "In the certificate, aforesaid, the physicians shall each state his residence, that he has resided in this State for at least three years; that he has been licensed to practice medicine in this State; that he has been in the actual practice of medicine for at least three years, or has had at least one year's experience as physician in a hospital for mental patients; that he is not related by blood or marriage to the patient, or to the applicant or any of the applicants; that he is not connected in any way as medical attendant, or otherwise, with the hospital to which application has been made for the admission of the patient; that he has examined the patient with care and diligence within one week; and that, in his opinion, the patient is mentally ill and in need of hospital care.He shall further state in said certificate the information, relative to the patient, given him by others, and the facts, as to the physical and mental condition and the behavior of the patient, which he has himself observed, on which he bases his opinion.

 "The aforesaid application and certificate shall be sworn to or affirmed before a judge or magistrate; and said judge or magistrate shall certify to the genuineness of the signatures, and to the standing and good repute of the signers of the certificate. The certificate shall not authorize the admission of the patient unless the patient shall be admitted within two weeks of the date thereof."

 In addition, the Mental Health Act of 1923 specifically and carefully protects the rights of persons committed under its provisions. By Section 601 of Article VI of the Act, 50 P.S. § 171, a committed person is granted, inter alia, the following rights:

 "(a) To communicate with his counsel and with the commissioner, and to be alone at any interview with his counsel or commissioners or representative of the department; * * *

 "(e) To be furnished with writing materials, and reasonable opportunity, in the discretion of the physician in charge, for communicating, under seal, with any person or persons outside of such institution or place, and such communications shall be stamped and mailed;

 "(f) To a writ of habeas corpus to determine whether or not he is properly detained as a mental patient, and the respondent in any such writ shall be required to pay the costs and charges of the proceedings unless the judge shall certify that, in his opinion, there were sufficient grounds for detaining the patient and putting him to his writ;

 "(g) To be discharged as soon as, in the opinion of the medical attendant of such institution or place, he shall be restored to reason and competent to manage his own affairs."

 The petitioner in the case at bar charged that the confinement of Ryan was not made in conformity with the provisions of Section 302 of the Mental Health Act and that, even if it were, the Act is in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution in that it deprives a ...


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