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August 1, 1980

Right to Treatment

Author Affiliations

Washburn University of Topeka School of Law Topeka, Kan

JAMA. 1980;244(5):435-436. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310050013006

To the Editor.—  Although recent decisions of the US Supreme Court1-3 are making psychiatric work easier, care must be exercised not to read these decisions too broadly. It appeared to us that this occurred in a recent article (242:2307, 1979) and an editorial (242:2327, 1979) in The Journal discussing Addington vs Texas. The Addington opinion was not clearly only a parens patriae commitment, and the case does not mandate any particular "right to treatment" or the "clear and convincing" standard of proof over the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard.Addington was civilly committed because he was mentally ill, and according to the testimony of two psychiatrists, "probably dangerous both to himself and to others," ie, a mixed parens patriae and police power commitment. The question for the Supreme Court was "what standard of proof is required by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution in a civil proceeding brought under state