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In Re Rusick





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County; the Hon. Thomas E. Hildebrand, Jr., Judge, presiding.


Following a hearing the trial court ordered that the respondent, Terence Rusick, was a person subject to involuntary admission and that he be hospitalized in the Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities. At the hearing respondent testified in his own behalf in an effort to persuade the court to permit him to be admitted voluntarily. The trial court subsequently denied respondent's motion to vacate the judgment for involuntary admission and to allow his petition for voluntary admission. He appeals raising a single issue: "[w]hether the trial court erred in denying respondent his statutory right as due process of law in not allowing respondent to become a voluntary patient."

Apparently because of inaudibility, the transcript of the hearing contains omissions, some rather serious, in the testimony of all three of the witnesses. The testimony of the first witness, Dr. Carmen Ferro, for example, who is described in respondent's brief as "a psychiatrist at Alton Mental Health Center," begins with an instruction from the bench: "Continue Doctor." Neither party has provided us with the substance of any of the omitted testimony.

Dr. Ferro testified that she "recommend[ed] commitment so we can treat him properly and discharge him when he's ready without having him request release. His judgment is very poor, so I think it is therefore against my recommendation to let him sign for himself." She diagnosed respondent as suffering from "Schizophrenia-paranoid type" and described his thinking as "so delusional that he distorts reality." On cross-examination counsel for respondent asked, "You mentioned previous occasions when Mr. Rusick had come in as a voluntary patient. Had he requested to leave soon thereafter?" Although the witness answered in the affirmative, the transcript contains nothing on direct examination with regard to respondent's prior voluntary admissions. She indicated that "the last two admissions" of respondent had occurred in April and June of 1981, that they had been voluntary, and that he had requested his release following admission. Although there is little indication in the record of how long he had been hospitalized on these two occasions before he asked to be released, the following colloquy between respondent's attorney and the witness is somewhat illuminating:

"Q. But isn't this case a little bit different because unlike some situations where Mr. Rusick might ask to sign a voluntary after he was brought in from emergency admission, Mr. Rusick approached St. Elizabeth's Hospital and asked to sign a voluntary admission?

A. Yes this case is different in a way that I know this case for many years [sic] and I know more or less what his behaviour has been, being past history, and I know that he would be requesting his release within a few days and he's not ready to be discharged.

Q. Has he told you he'd be requesting his release within a few days?

A. No, but I know the ways he has been —

Q. Has he told you he wants to be treated and wants to become better and that's why he wants to be here?

A. Sometimes he comes and says he wants to be treated. Sometimes he says he's better already and he's ready to leave."

Respondent had told her the day before that he was "much better" but had not asked her if he could leave. Respondent appears to have sought treatment at St. Elizabeth's Hospital on January 4, 1982, 10 days before the hearing on January 14, and to have been transferred to the Alton Mental Health Center. Earlier, in response to the question on cross-examination of whether it is "generally considered good for the patient if he decides to sign himself in voluntarily," Dr. Ferro answered, "To [sic] some patients, yes," adding, "Usually when you let somebody sign it [sic] voluntarily * * * you consider their judgment to be fairly good." The respondent had been on suicidal precautions when first admitted because he had admitted to being "very depressed" and had been "considering different ways of killing himself." Dr. Ferro testified that respondent usually responds well to medication but that "outside" the facility, he stops taking it.

The other witness called by the State was Mary Gibbons, described in respondent's brief as a "hospital employee." Her testimony, like that of Dr. Ferro, begins in media res. Of "one of the last readmissions" of the respondent she testified on direct examination as follows:

"I don't remember — recall any unauthorized absences but he did [inaudible] before we felt he was ready. And on one occasion — I don't have a date; it's in the charts — he had hurt his arm, broke his hand, from hitting another client, had to be under restraints from threatening that and other clients, tore the cast off — which the doctor had put on — and signed his request for release to leave the hospital."

Asked on cross-examination whether respondent had told her that "he wants to be treated, he wants treatment, he wants you to help him," the witness answered, "He'll do that one minute, the next minute he says he's ready to kill himself. He's very changeable." The witness indicated that her concern about allowing respondent to be admitted voluntarily stemmed in part from the fluctuations in his state of mind and, accordingly, in his behavior. Although his behavior at the time he sought release following a voluntary admission might be such ...

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