Capacity to consent to voluntary hospitalization: searching for a satisfactory Zinermon
N. G. Poythress, M. Cascardi and L. Ritterband,
Bull. Amer. Acad. Psychiatry & the Law
24(4): 439-52, 1996.
Half a decade ago, the Zinermon court announced the need for clinicians to evaluate the competence
of people with mental illness to consent to voluntary hospital admission, but the court did not specify
the test of capacity that mental health professionals should use. As has occurred in other areas
dealing with legal competence, there is a need for the field to develop standardized assessment
procedures for evaluating capacity to consent to voluntary hospitalization. Both theoretical and
practical considerations suggest that these procedures should be modeled after what S. K. Hoge has
termed a "weak" model of consent. This and other studies of the ability of mentally ill persons to
understand disclosed information suggest that their level of understanding may be assessed optimally
with measures that utilize recognition rather than recall response elicitation formats.