The law failed our son

Personal testimony by Karen and James Logan

Our son James Logan began exhibiting signs of paranoid schizophrenia. We recognized the symptoms because this serious disease had already occurred in his paternal grandmother and his uncle. We had taken him to the emergency room of a local hospital for treatment that night; we were told he should come back in the morning.

On Monday, August 26, 2002, our son went to the hospital and was seen by the attending psychiatrist and was told he should be admitted immediately for diagnosis and treatment. However, due to the nature of the illness, our son did not feel he needed any treatment and he refused to sign any hospital admission forms. Under current law physicians can not admit an adult into the hospital against their will, even though the individual is gravely disabled and incapable of making a rational decision about their well being. Currently they must present a danger to the life or safety of the individual or others. The doctor did not believe James met this criteria at that time. However, if he became violent, the doctor said we could call the police and ask them to bring James back to the hospital.

We continued to look for alternative treatment for our son to no avail. He refused all treatment because at the time he could not understand that he had a brain disorder that needed treatment.

As our son’s condition deteriorated; it became obvious that his life as well as others could be in danger. Peace officers were called on August 28, 2002, however they did not witness any dangerous aggressive behavior so they did not petition for an emergency evaluation. The only choice set before us was to file a “Petition for Emergency Evaluation” with the Court. The petition requires the ruling by a Judge before an emergency evaluation can be done. Our son’s condition had now become so severe we thought we could convince a Judge that the danger was imminent. The petition was authorized by the Judge.

By the time we were able to obtain the proper authorization for an emergency psychiatric evaluation on August 29, 2002, our son’s condition had extremely deteriorated. Two Deputy Sheriffs lost their lives while trying to serve the “Petition for Emergency Evaluation.” Our son has been incarcerated since this time, and our family has suffered greatly because of this tragedy. The families of the two Deputy Sheriffs are suffering as well. We have kept their families in our prayers and we will continue to do so.

If the attending psychiatrist had the authority to admit our son involuntarily under the gravely disabled standard (which did not pass the legislature last year), perhaps this tragedy would not have occurred.

The emergency evaluation standard currently proposed in SB 273 could also have averted this tragedy. Although SB 273 does not propose a gravely disabled standard, it does require the dangerousness standard for an emergency evaluation to be the same as the dangerousness standard for involuntary hospital admission. This could also have averted the tragedy. SB 273 would have allowed the peace officers on August 28, 2002, to take into account other pertinent information, enabling them to make a better decision. This would also have eliminated the traumatic experience of pleading with a Judge to grant a petition. Also, under SB 273 we could have petitioned for an evaluation before the danger was imminent.

Please vote in favor of SB 273. Save the lives of people who are ill through no fault of their own and others trying to help them. Prevent needless tragedy from striking more Maryland families.