Opinion
Reading Los Angeles: Join The Times' new book club
Opinion Readers React
Readers React

Speaking up for Laura's Law in L.A.

To the editor: British psychiatrist Tom Burns says that he doesn't expect Laura's Law to make a big difference. Yet the results of his study in the medical journal Lancet show that steady, flexible and persistent outreach, coupled with high quality and well-coordinated mental health services (voluntary or not) produce the best long-term outcomes. ("Can Laura's Law help the mentally ill? Researcher Tom Burns' surprising conclusion.," Op-Ed, July 22)

This is exactly what Laura's Law requires and what L.A. County's implementation seeks to deliver. Almost all of it will be voluntary. Many stakeholders agree that L.A.'s plan represents new hope for some of our most vulnerable people.

When it comes to compulsory treatment, Burns says that "If I have a seriously ill schizophrenic patient who is neglecting himself, not taking his medicine, and I know he's going to get worse, I can say that it's a 'danger' to his health."

This broad European definition of "danger" sounds a lot like the "likelihood of substantial deterioration" described in Laura's Law. In those instances in which a court finds a likelihood of substantial deterioration, Laura's Law permits intervention for the same seriously ill individuals that Burns would also treat because he considers them to be in danger.

That could make a very big difference for L.A. County— by saving lives.

Roderick Shaner, MD, Pacific Palisades

The writer is medical director of the county's Department of Mental Health.

..

To the editor: Patt Morrison's interview of Burns is puzzling. The "high-quality research" cited found that patients with compulsory treatment did no better than controls "if [the control patients] are getting decent care otherwise" (emphasis added).

Of course this is true — the targets of Laura's Law are not patients who are already getting decent care but instead are those receiving little or no care because their illness-impaired judgment leads them to refuse treatment.

Burns is correct that one of the necessary skills of a psychiatrist is to form a trusting relationship with patients who are frightened or delusional about treatment. Yet no amount of interpersonal skill will permit this to happen if the patient refuses to even appear for treatment. If Laura's Law is enforced so that at least the patient is required to attend treatment, surely some of the patients can be reached.

Cyril Barnert, MD, Los Angeles

The writer is a retired professor of clinical psychiatry at UCLA.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • Close the male-female nursing pay gap now

    To the editor: I suspected that there was pay inequality in nursing, but having it verified by a study is quite disturbing. We have a "super nurse" in the family and have always been thankful for the great care and compassion received from nurses, previously mostly female and recently some...

  • Stop the coal industry from sickening so many people

    To the editor: Coal has historically been part of the economic lifeblood of our nation. It has been extracted with great labor and considerable danger by brave men who work in conditions most people would not tolerate. It has also been strip mined at great ecological cost. ("EPA rule on power...

  • Imagining a Ted Cruz presidency — and a stronger America

    To the editor: To use language similar to a reader opposed to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) ("Ted Cruz's dream, America's nightmare," Readers React, March 24):

  • Where did all this real-estate money come from?

    To the editor: After reading the column by Steve Lopez on a tour of Beverly Hills properties sold to the mega-rich with real estate agent Jeff Hyland, I felt nauseated. ("A $35-million tear-down: L.A.'s unreal estate has plenty of buyers," column, March 21)

  • Drug addiction isn't 'wolves' vs. 'sheep'

    To the editor: Author Kerry Madden should keep going to Al-Anon. She's still struggling to understand what's happened to her son, a recovering addict, and his dead friend Noah, and she never reveals what their gateway drug may have been. Could it have been pot? ("When drug addiction conquers...

  • Battle against climate change is this generation's WWII
    Battle against climate change is this generation's WWII

    To the editor: When the U.S. entered World War II, the nation united. From industries manufacturing war materiel, to families rationing their provisions, to the media whipping up the fervor necessary to achieve a total economic transformation, every effort went into enlisting the whole...

Comments
Loading