The law in the state of Tennessee setting emergency involuntary commitment standards permits immediate detention of a patient for the purposes of diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment under the following condition:
The physician must evaluate the patient and determine that he/she is mentally ill and because of this illness poses a likelihood of serious harm. The phrase likelihood of serious harm means substantial risk of physical harm to the person himself as manifested by evidence of threats of, or attempts at, suicide or serious bodily harm; or substantial risk of physical harm to other persons as manifested by evidence of homicidal or other violent behavior and serious physical harm to them.1
The laws in most other states set forth similar criteria.
Perr,2 in a recent review of the historical evolution of the criteria for involuntary hospitalization, highlights the phenomenal fluctuations in the standards. The present emphasis on dangerousness to
Rabin P, Folks D. Dangerousness as the Criterion for Involuntary Hospitalization: A Time to Reassess. JAMA. 1981;246(9):990. doi:10.1001/jama.1981.03320090052033