Can Police Force You to Go to the Hospital?

Rights Regarding Medical Treatment

Can Police Force You to Go to the Hospital?

Understanding Your Rights Regarding Forced Hospitalization

You may not anticipate being in a situation in which a police officer is forcing you to go to the hospital. However, it is important to understand your rights regarding this issue. As Americans, we are protected by numerous laws and legislations. It is important to educate yourself on your rights in various areas. By doing so, you can ensure that you can protect these valuable freedoms.

Can the police force you to go to the hospital? If the police believe you are in immediate danger of harming yourself or others, they can legally force you to go to the hospital. In this type of situation, the individual’s mental health and wellbeing are in question. However, adults over the age of 18 have the right to refuse medical treatment as long as they are considered to be of sound mind. Even if you are forced to go to the hospital, you can refuse to receive treatment.

There are very few cases where an individual who is truly in need of medical care refuses a trip to the hospital. However, there are instances where this may happen. It is important to remember that police officers and other emergency professionals are working with your best interests in mind. However, for a variety of reasons, you may not be comfortable receiving the medical care they are suggesting. 

In this post, we will take a look at what a police officer can and can not do when it comes to forcing an individual to receive medical care. Many complexities surround this topic, one of the reasons why individuals have so many questions on the topic. By providing you with this important information, we hope to educate you on your rights as an American citizen.

Right to Receive Treatment & Right to Refuse Treatment

All Americans over the age of 18 who are of sound mind have both the right to treatment and the right to refuse medical treatment. This means that, despite gender, race, social status, economic status, or other defining qualities, you have the right to receive treatment for both physical and mental health conditions.

However, we also have the right to refuse medical treatment. This is often a greater concern to individuals, especially those who have various religious convictions and beliefs. Before a physician begins medical treatment, they must first educate the patient on the potential benefits, risks, and alternatives to care. This is another important right – the right to informed consent

After having this information, an adult over the age of 18 who is of sound mind can refuse or accept medical treatment. Physicians can not force or persuade a patient towards any one treatment plan if the patient is mentally capable of refusing care.

While this does not directly impact the topic of whether the police can force you to go to the hospital, it is important information to understand. 

Exceptions to The Right to Refuse Medical Treatment

While most adults over the age of 18 have the right to refuse medical treatment, there are a few exceptions to this rule. The primary time this comes into play is in an emergency situation. If there is immediate medical treatment needed to save a patient’s life, and the patient is unable to communicate, consent is not necessary. 

The medical team, and any police officers involved, must take whatever steps are necessary to save the individual’s life. Once the emergency situation has been resolved, the medical team must delay further treatment until the individual can respond with informed consent.

Another time when an individual can not refuse medical treatment is when they are in an altered mental state. There may be several reasons the patient is unable to make this decision. These include, but are not limited to, drugs, alcohol, brain injury, or mental illness.

In the same vein, individuals who are in immediate danger of harming themselves or others are unable to refuse medical treatment. This threat could be due to mental illness or physical illness such as a communicable disease. 

Finally, a parent is not able to refuse treatment that is considered life-sustaining or life-saving for their child. Parents are also not able to deny medical care if their child requires treatment.

While parents can invoke their right to religious freedom to refuse non-life-saving treatment for their child (certain vaccines, for example), they can not refuse life-sustaining or life-saving treatment for any reason. 

Can Police Force an Individual to Go to The Hospital?

Forced HospitalizationPolice officers are often put in intense situations in which they must make hard decisions. One such decision is determining whether an individual requires medical care. Some of these individuals may refuse a trip to the hospital. Most often due to mental illness, drug use, or alcohol abuse.

Let’s say, for example, you were in a car accident that left you with serious injuries. Although you were physically injured, you were mentally aware and able to communicate with police officers on the scene. For whatever reason, you decide that you do not want to go to the hospital. Maybe it is because you do not have insurance or maybe it is outside of your religious beliefs. Either way, the police officer suggests you take a ride in the ambulance and you refuse. 

What happens next? Can the police officer force you to get in the ambulance to go to the hospital? If you are an adult over the age of 18, and you are mentally aware and able to communicate, you have the right to refuse medical treatment. In this type of situation, you will have to sign a waiver with a witness present. This documents the fact that you refused medical treatment. 

However, if your child is in the car and has visible or suspected injuries, you can not refuse medical treatment on their behalf.

What About Emergency Situations?

If a police officer responds to a call and finds an individual unresponsive, they must provide life-saving services. In these types of situations, consent is not necessary. The police officer can call for emergency services who will administer medical care until the individual is in stable condition. 

When Mental Health Is In Question

The primary instance of a police officer forcing an individual to go to the hospital against their will is in situations where mental health is in question. If the police officer considers an individual to be of poor mental health, or compromised by drugs or alcohol, they may use force to transport the individual to the hospital. 

Once at the hospital, the individual can refuse medical treatment. However, even if they refuse medical treatment, they will not be able to leave the hospital immediately. In this type of situation, the case would go to court. Here the judge would determine the course of action. 

If a team of medical professionals determines that medical treatment is necessary yet the individual continues to refuse treatment, the hospital must file a petition. Once the medical team submits the petition to the court, the judge will make the final call regarding the outcome of the case. 

Laws regarding these types of decisions vary by state. However, most judges will rule in favor of treatment without consent for the following reasons:

  • Medical treatment is necessary for safety and recovery.
  • The team exhausts efforts towards voluntary medical treatment.
  • Family members and friends were unsuccessful in persuading the patient to consent.
  • The benefits of medical treatment will outweigh the various risks.


When an issue involves matters of mental health, individuals, police officers and medical professionals must proceed with caution and respect. 

Refusing Medical Treatment on Religious Grounds

Many religions dissuade their members from receiving various forms of medical treatment. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses have a strong opposition to blood transfusions among other treatments. Other religious leaders discourage chemotherapy of the use of prescription medication.

Whether guided by your religious leaders or your personal religious convictions, you do have the right to refuse medical treatment on religious grounds. Depending on the unique circumstances surrounding your situation, you may need to present your case in court. In these situations, it is important to work with a lawyer who can effectively represent you and protect your rights.

Remember that in any medical setting, you have the legal right to refuse treatment. A police officer, doctor, or medical professional can not force you to receive treatment unless they consider you mentally unstable. 

In Conclusion

As we have seen, American adults have both the right to receive treatment and the right to refuse treatment. In some instances, a police officer may force an individual to go to the hospital. This is primarily if the individual is a threat to themselves or others. However, a police officer can never force you to accept medical care. It is important to educate ourselves on our various medical rights. In doing so, we can more effectively promote the freedoms we have the privilege of experiencing today. 

Thank you for reading! You can learn more about protecting equality, liberty, and justice for all here.

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