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People v. Elizabeth L.

September 22, 2000

IN RE E.L., ALLEGED TO BE A PERSON SUBJECT TO INVOLUNTARY ADMINISTRATION OF PSYCHOTIC MEDICATION,
(THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
V.
ELIZABETH L.,
RESPONDENT-APPELLANT).



Appeal from the Circuit court of Cook County. No. 98 CONMT 3027 The Honorables Francis Barth Marjan Peter Staniec, Presiding Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Buckley

This is a consolidated appeal from an order finding respon-dent, Elizabeth L., subject to involuntary admission at Evanston Hospital pursuant to section 1-119 of the Illinois Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code (the Mental Health Code) (405 ILCS 5/1- 119 (West 1996)) and from a subsequent order finding Elizabeth subject to the involuntary administration of psychotropic medication pursuant to section 2-107.1 of the Mental Health Code (405 ILCS 5/2-107.1(West 1996)). With respect to the first order, Elizabeth raises the following issues on appeal: (1) whether the State's failure to submit the required dispositional report in writing mandates reversal; and (2) whether the State proved by clear and convincing evidence that Elizabeth was unable to care for her basic physical needs so as to guard herself from serious harm. With respect to the order for the involuntary administration of psychotropic medication, Elizabeth raises the following issues on appeal: (1) whether the trial court abused its discretion by refusing to consider evidence of events that occurred after the filing of the petition; and (2) whether the State proved that Elizabeth lacked the capacity to make an informed decision about her medication.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

A. TESTIMONY RELATED TO PETITION FOR INVOLUNTARY ADMISSION

A petition for the involuntary admission of Elizabeth was filed on December 14, 1998. The petition alleged that on December 11, 1998, Elizabeth, a 24-year-old woman, was brought by ambulance to the St. Francis Hospital emergency room after telling workers on the El platform that someone was trying to kill her and that her parents had been killed.

A hearing on the matter took place on December 30, 1998, at which time Dr. Thomas Rebori, M.D., the only witness, testified that he is a board-certified psychiatrist and practices at Evanston Hospital. He stated that he has been Elizabeth's treating psychiatrist since she was admitted to Evanston Hospital, and he has seen her daily except for weekends. He stated that Elizabeth has "for the most part" refused to talk to him. He stated that when he knocks on her door to speak with her she tells him that he cannot come in. When he enters her room, she gets out of bed, turns around and stares at the wall, refusing to speak.

Dr. Rebori testified that his diagnosis of Elizabeth is "psychotic disorder not otherwise specified." His diagnosis is based on his examination of Elizabeth's records, his observations of her, and his discussions with staff members regarding their observations of her. Dr. Rebori stated that he is unable to determine whether the differential is "depression with psychotic features" or "distinct paranoid type" because Elizabeth has not given him permission to speak with her family. He further stated that her family has called him and he explained to them that he is unable to speak with them.

Dr. Rebori further testified that Elizabeth has remained isolated in her room, refused to eat or drink early in her hospitalization, and at various times would scream suddenly. He stated that Elizabeth has refused to come out for "group" and has refused to meet with various people on her treatment team. Dr. Rebori stated that Elizabeth has been observed staring at the wall for up to five hours at a time and has also been observed standing in the shower and staring up at the ceiling for several hours at a time. He also stated that, later on in her hospital stay, rather than refusing to eat, she began eating large quantities of food and stealing food off other people's plates. He further testified that Elizabeth has told staff members that her parents are dead and that she believes she is dying of cancer. He stated that she has been examined by an internal medicine physician, and she does not have cancer.

Dr. Rebori testified that Elizabeth is diabetic and has refused "finger sticks," which are necessary to check her blood- sugar level. He stated that Elizabeth has refused to take Gluchophage, an oral medication that she takes for her diabetes. Dr. Rebori stated that, by refusing to take Gluchophage, Elizabeth puts herself at risk of her blood sugar rising, which could result in diabetic ketosis byproducts in the blood or could induce a coma. He stated that he has also offered her Risperdal and Haldol, which are antipsychotic medications, and she has refused to take both. Dr. Rebori stated that Elizabeth has, on occasion, told the staff that she will take her medication and subsequently refused it.

Dr. Rebori testified that, as a result of her mental illness, Elizabeth is unable to take care of her basic physical needs to protect herself from serious harm. He stated that her refusal to take medication allows her disorganization to continue, and her inability to take care of her diabetes is potentially life threatening. He stated that, because she believes her parents are dead, she would not be able to find shelter if released and, because of the cold weather, would be at risk of dying of hypothermia. He further stated that her inability to problem solve puts her at risk of becoming a crime victim.

Dr. Rebori testified that Elizabeth spoke with him the day before the hearing for about three minutes with her attorney present. Dr. Rebori asked Elizabeth what she was doing on the El platform and she told him that she had great pressure in her head and that she could not think clearly enough to get off the platform. He asked her if she was willing to take her medication and she said no. He asked her if she wanted to talk about her court date and she said no. Dr. Rebori stated that Elizabeth is suffering from paranoid delusions which include him and the staff at Evanston Hospital and which prevent her from engaging in treatment.

Dr. Rebori stated that he recommends that Elizabeth remain in the hospital and take her medication. He also recommends that she allow him to speak with her family so that discharge planning can be arranged and that she agree to follow up with a psychiatrist. He stated that he did not discuss less restrictive treatment alternatives with her because she refused to speak with him. He stated that he does not presently recommend a lesser level of care for Elizabeth because she is not taking her medication and she would not be safe.

On cross-examination, Dr. Rebori stated that Elizabeth spoke with him that day. He stated that she recognized that if she did not manage her diabetes, it could cause her to become greatly ill. When he spoke with her about her diabetes medication, she told him that she did not trust the staff to give her the correct medication because the Gluchophage the staff offered her did not look similar to the Gluchophage she purchased at Walgreens. Dr. Rebori also stated that Elizabeth has occasionally agreed to have her blood- sugar level tested and, when she did, the results of the tests have not been so elevated to cause grave concern.

With regard to a less restrictive setting for Elizabeth, Dr. Rebori testified that he has not been able to discuss alternatives with her. He also stated that he has not contacted other facili-ties to determine whether another facility might be able to care for her because he has not had permission to do so. He also testified that Elizabeth's parents indicated to him that she lived with them before being admitted to Evanston Hospital. He stated that he did not know whether she could return home if she were discharged. Dr. Rebori testified that if Elizabeth was taking her medication and was engaged in discharged planning and was speaking with her parents then she might be able to return home; however, he further stated that he does not think she is ready at this time. Dr. Rebori agreed, however, that if Elizabeth start taking her medication and her parents allowed her to return home, then his opinion that there is no other less restrictive alternative for her would change.

At the close of testimony, the State offered into evidence the treatment plan and a social report. The assistant State's Attorney then made the following statement with regard to the written dispositional report required by the Mental Health Code:

"Also, with regard to the less restrictive environment, the Doctor has offered and tried to talk to [Elizabeth] about a less restric-tive environment. [Elizabeth] refuses to allow him to even discuss anything with her. He offered to talk to her about a less restric-tive environment. We think that satisfies the Mental Health Code."

Counsel for Elizabeth objected and, thereafter, the State offered a written progress note dated December 28, 1998, written by the doctor which reads:

"P[atien]t cont[inues] to refuse med[ication] for psychosis and her diabetes. P[atien]t refuses to speak to me. When asked what does she want to do she replies 'To be left alone so I can sleep.' No insight into her condi-tions."

The State argued that the written progress report indicates that efforts were made to discuss a less restrictive environment with Elizabeth and that she refused. The trial court found that "under the circumstances" the progress note was sufficient to satisfy the written requirement ...


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