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In re G.A.S.

Supreme Court of North Dakota

June 30, 2016

In the Interest of G.A.S.
v.
G.A.S., Respondent and Appellant J.S., Petitioner and Appellee

         Appeal from the District Court of Burleigh County, South Central Judicial District, the Honorable James S. Hill, Judge.

          Ryan A. Keefe, Assistant State's Attorney, for petitioner and appellee; submitted on brief.

          Gregory I. Runge, for respondent and appellant; submitted on brief.

          OPINION

          Gerald W.VandeWalle, Chief Justice.

         [¶ 1] G.A.S. appealed a district court order authorizing involuntary treatment with prescribed medication. We conclude the district court did not violate G.A.S.'s statutory rights by accepting testimony from one of G.A.S.'s treating psychiatrists, and the court's factual findings are supported by the evidence. We affirm.

         I

         [¶ 2] On May 12, 2016, G.A.S.'s mother petitioned for involuntary commitment at St. Alexius Medical Center in Bismarck after hospital personnel became concerned about G.A.S.'s health because he refused psychiatric medication. G.A.S. waived a preliminary hearing, and on May 17, 2016, the district court ordered him involuntarily committed for 14 days. On May 20, 2016, G.A.S.'s treating psychiatrist, Dr. Diane Nelson, filed a request to treat G.A.S. with prescribed medication. Dr. Stephanie Jallen signed the request to treat with medication as "another... psychiatrist... not involved in the current diagnosis or treatment of [G.A.S.]." A treatment hearing and medication hearing were scheduled for May 31, 2016. G.A.S. waived the treatment hearing and acknowledged he is a person requiring treatment under N.D.C.C. § 25-03.1-02(13). At the medication hearing, Dr. Jallen testified as G.A.S.'s treating psychiatrist and stated G.A.S.'s mental condition would continue to deteriorate if he did not take prescribed medication. At the conclusion of the hearing the district court ordered involuntary treatment with the prescribed medication Zyprexa for 90 days.

         II

         [¶ 3] G.A.S. argues the district court should have denied the request to treat with medication because Dr. Jallen testified as G.A.S.'s treating psychiatrist in violation of N.D.C.C. § 25-03.1-18.1(1)(a). G.A.S. argues Dr. Jallen, who signed the request as a psychiatrist not involved in G.A.S.'s current treatment, should not have been involved in any way, shape or form with G.A.S.'s treatment regimen other than to review his chart and consult with Dr. Nelson to determine his medication needs.

         [¶ 4] Under N.D.C.C. § 25-03.1-29, an appeal from an involuntary treatment order is "limited to a review of the procedures, findings, and conclusions of the lower court." A district court's decision to order involuntary treatment with medication must be based upon clear and convincing evidence, and this Court reviews the district court's findings under a more probing clearly erroneous standard of review. In re M.M., 2005 ND 219, ¶ 9, 707 N.W.2d 78. "Under this more probing standard, 'we will affirm an order for involuntary treatment unless it is induced by an erroneous view of the law or if we are firmly convinced it is not supported by clear and convincing evidence.'" Id. (quoting In re P.B., 2005 ND 201, ¶ 5, 706 N.W.2d 78).

         [¶ 5] Section 25-03.1-18.1, N.D.C.C., governs court-authorized involuntary treatment with prescribed medication. Section 25-03.1-18.1(1)(a), N.D.C.C., provides:

Upon notice and hearing, a treating psychiatrist may request authorization from the court to treat an individual under a mental health treatment order with prescribed medication. The request may be considered by the court in an involuntary treatment hearing. As a part of the request, the treating psychiatrist and another licensed physician, physician assistant, psychiatrist, or advanced practice registered nurse not involved in the current diagnosis or treatment of the patient shall certify:
(1) That the proposed prescribed medication is clinically appropriate and necessary to effectively treat the patient and that the patient is a person requiring treatment;
(2) That the patient was offered that treatment and refused it or that the patient lacks the capacity to make or communicate a ...

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