Readers React: Forcing medical treatment on homeless people poses serious due process concerns

A homeless encampment near the intersection of 5th and San Pedro streets in downtown Los Angeles on March 6.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Dr. Susan Partovi makes the case for involuntary medical treatment for people she deems too impaired to make decisions for themselves. Her solution seems to be a checklist of signs and symptoms allowing clinicians to decide if someone is gravely disabled.

In fact, California’s Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (LPS) establishes a legal process to declare an individual incompetent and permit involuntary treatment for psychiatric illnesses.

Make no mistake, involuntarily treating someone whose movements are limited to within a hospital is taking that person’s liberty, just as if he or she were incarcerated. For that reason alone, the procedure must afford the individual the same due process as any court hearing to deny freedom.

We need to do a better job bringing mental health services to the streets. There are, for example, twice the number of suicides as homicides per year, but suicide prevention gets nowhere near the funding as police departments, courts and prisons.


However, any standard for involuntary treatment must include a respect for the right to due process.

David Middleton, Rancho Mirage

The writer is a retired psychologist who worked in community and correctional mental health.



To the editor: The breadth of the homelessness problem that I encounter on a daily basis leaves me asking questions to which I have no answers. I cannot begin to imagine having no place to lay my head down at night; no money to procure life’s basic amenities; and most importantly, no one to believe in me and love me.

After all, these people were, they are, and they will always be someone’s child.

Marc Rogers, North Hollywood

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