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In re Guardianship of Welch

September 07, 2004

IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF: TERESE WELCH, WARD.


Hennepin County District Court. File No. P5-02-1354.

Considered and decided by Anderson, Presiding Judge; Peterson, Judge; and Parker, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. Prior court approval is not necessary for a private guardian to consent to administration of neuroleptic medication to an incapacitated individual who is not civilly committed.

2. When an incapacitated individual asserts that administration of neuroleptic medication adversely affects his or her constitutional rights, the court must follow the procedures set forth in Price v. Sheppard, 307 Minn. 250, 239 N.W.2d 905 (1976), and Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, The opinion of the court was delivered by: Parker, Judge

Reversed and remanded

Parker, Judge*fn1

OPINION

Respondent, who is subject to a private guardianship, suffers from mental illness. Although her condition can be treated with neuroleptic medication, she refuses such treatment unless she is subject to a court order. Appellants sought to extend the private guardian's existing medical consent powers to include consent to the administration of neuroleptic medication, by force if necessary, once respondent is no longer civilly committed. The district court denied the petition, finding no legal authority to support it. Because Minn. Stat. § 524.5-313(c)(4)(i) (Supp. 2003) does not include neuroleptic medications among the exceptions to necessary medical treatment that require prior judicial approval, we find that prior court approval is not required for such consent. But because constitutional rights are implicated here, we remand for application of the Price and Mathews factors to ensure that respondent's privacy and due process rights are adequately protected.

FACTS

Respondent Terese Welch is diagnosed with mental illness, which grossly impairs her judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality, capacity to reason, and capacity to understand. Welch was committed to Hennepin County Medical Center as mentally ill by order of the district court dated March 21, 2003. The court authorized administration of neuroleptic medication for the duration of the order for commitment. Welch's brothers acted as her guardians until September 9, 2003, when the district court appointed appellant Jean Sulzle as Welch's private guardian.

Appellant Phillip Krasowski, Welch's psychiatric nurse, petitioned for modification of the guardianship to include the authority to give informed consent to the use of neuroleptic medication and to consent to the forcible administration of neuroleptic medication if it is reasonable and necessary to do so to treat Welch's mental illness.

This matter came before Hennepin County District Court on May 8, 2003, one day before Welch was released to a transitional group home. Krasowski testified that Welch had a history of compliance with medication while committed, but that she did not take the medication upon release. This ultimately resulted in a return of symptoms, crisis, and rehospitalization. He testified that while on medication, Welch could easily manage her symptoms. The record shows, however, that Welch believes the medication is illegal and will only take it when she has a court order to do so.

The district court denied the petition for modification, holding that the case law and statutes do not apply to private conservatorships without civil commitment, and thus the district court had ...


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