Second District Illinois Appellate Rules Plain Error Doctrine Overcomes Waiver Of Patient’s Right To Psychiatric Evaluation

The use of psychotropic drugs again was at issue. The patient was admitted to the Elgin Mental Health Center after she was found to be unfit to stand trial for unauthorized use of a credit card. The patient was treated by Dr. Rosanova, who diagnosed schizophrenia and recommended use of phychotropic drugs.

The patient received an independent evaluation from a clinical psychologist, not a medical doctor. A chief preliminary issue was whether the patient timely demanded an independent evaluation by a physician. The court ruled that the patient’s actions in the trial court sufficiently defeated a waiver argument.

But the appellate court did not stop there. The court also ruled that the plain error doctrine — not often invoked in civil cases — overcame waiver. Here’s what the court said:

The plain-error doctrine allows a reviewing court to address a waived or forfeited issue in two circumstances: (1) where the evidence is so closely balanced that the outcome may have resulted from the error rather than the evidence; or (2) where the error is so serious that the respondent was denied a substantial right, and thus a fair trial . . . In this case, petitioner glaringly overlooks the second circumstance in which the plain-error doctrine may apply. As stated, the Illinois Supreme Court has described the involuntary administration of psychotropic drugs as an act that involves a ” ‘ “massive curtailment of liberty” ‘ ” . . . and an act that is a ” ‘particularly severe’ interference with a person’s liberty . . . Therefore, even if respondent waived her right to an independent psychiatric evaluation, the second prong of the plain-error doctrine applies

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Get the whole case, In re Dru G., 02-05-1214 (12/20/06), by clicking here.