Reaffirmed October 2023
Revised April 2017, June 2010
Reaffirmed October 2001
Revised March 1997
Originally approved June 1991
Emergency physicians are often called on to care for patients for whom involuntary commitment may be a consideration. Civil commitment, the term used to describe the only non-criminal process by which the law allows individuals to be detained and their freedom of movement restricted, is applied to persons who, because of psychiatric illness or another disease, pose a danger to themselves or others. The laws delineating and governing this process are state laws, but federal regulations and oversight may also apply.
Commitment involves an infringement of civil liberties and may create special concerns for emergency department personnel. When participating in commitment procedures, the emergency physician should consider the following:
ACEP supports the use of written department guidelines or policies addressing the commitment of emergency patients. ACEP further recognizes the importance of psychiatric and other mental health care professionals in the evaluation of patients that may be in need of commitment, and strongly supports access for patients to appropriate mental health consultation.