Capacity to consent to voluntary hospitalization: searching for a satisfactory Zinermon screen.

N. G. Poythress, M. Cascardi and L. Ritterband,
Bull. Amer. Acad. Psychiatry & the Law 24(4): 439-52, 1996.
Half a decade ago, the Zinermon court announced the need for clinicians to evaluate the competence of people with mental illness to consent to voluntary hospital admission, but the court did not specify the test of capacity that mental health professionals should use. As has occurred in other areas dealing with legal competence, there is a need for the field to develop standardized assessment procedures for evaluating capacity to consent to voluntary hospitalization. Both theoretical and practical considerations suggest that these procedures should be modeled after what S. K. Hoge has termed a "weak" model of consent. This and other studies of the ability of mentally ill persons to understand disclosed information suggest that their level of understanding may be assessed optimally with measures that utilize recognition rather than recall response elicitation formats.