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Evidence was sufficient to support ch. 51 medication order

Winnebago County v. Brian C., 2014AP2792-FT, District 2, 3/11/15 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

The record supports the trial court’s finding that the County met its burden of proving Brian was incompetent to refuse medication under § 51.61(1)(g)4(intro) and b.

First, the County showed that a psychiatrist explained the advantages and disadvantages of, and alternatives to, the medication within the three-week period immediately preceding the petition, and explanation within that time period is sufficient to satisfy the statute. (¶8-10). Further, the evidence supported the trial court’s conclusion that Brian was substantially incapable of applying an understanding of the advantages, disadvantages, and alternatives, despite Brian’s own sometimes cogent testimony about the effects of medication:

¶17     …[Dr.] Andrade testified that Brian was delusional and she provided specific examples to support this conclusion. Brian’s testimony was that he was “a completely sane person” who “never really had a mental disease.” Despite Brian’s testimony at times being clear and articulate, the circuit court was entitled to believe Andrade’s testimony—which was based on her recent and direct observations of Brian “on the unit,” conversations with him, and review of his records—as to Brian’s true mental state. Further, Andrade testified as to the advantages of Abilify, while Brian testified that he was “positive that the advantages of psychotropic drugs are only theory based.” Again, the court was in the position to directly observe the witnesses, evaluate their credibility and weigh their testimony, and it clearly found Andrade’s testimony credible and that Abilify had some meaningful advantages for Brian. ….

¶18     Contrasting Brian’s apparent beliefs that he has no mental illness and that the advantages of psychotropic drugs, such as Abilify, “are only theory based,” with Andrade’s testimony that was accepted by the circuit court, we cannot say the court erred in its conclusion that the County had met its burden to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that Brian is “substantially incapable of applying an understanding of the advantages, disadvantages and alternatives to his … [condition] in order to make an informed choice as to whether to accept or refuse psychotropic medications.” See Wis. Stat. § 51.61(1)(g)4. As our supreme court stated in [Outagamie County v.] Melanie L., “[i]t may be true that if a person cannot recognize that he or she has a mental illness, logically the person cannot establish a connection between his or her expressed understanding of the benefits and risks of medication and the person’s own illness.” Melanie L., [2013 WI 67,] 349 Wis. 2d 148, ¶72[, 833 N.W.2d 607]. Further, if a person actually does not understand that there in fact are some real advantages to use of a certain medication, that person cannot apply an understanding of those advantages, “in order to make an informed choice as to whether to accept or refuse medication.” See § 51.61(1)(g)4.

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