2018 Mass. App. Div. 13

February 12, 2016 - February 9, 2018

Appellate Division Western District

Court Below: District Court, Worcester Division

Present: Hadley, P.J., Noonan & McGill, JJ.

Darina A. Griffin for the petitioner.

Stan Goldman for the respondent.

PER CURIAM. In July, 2014, the Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital ("WRC") filed a petition in the Worcester District Court to commit A.H. pursuant to G.L. c. 123, §§ 7 and 8 and to authorize treatment with antipsychotic medications pursuant to § 8B. After multiple continuances, a hearing was held, and the court issued an order of civil commitment for a period not to exceed one year. After several further continuances, and after an independent medical evaluator consulted with the attending psychiatrist treating A.H., a hearing was held with regard to the § 8B petition.

The District Court judge who presided over the hearing found that A.H. was not competent to make informed treatment decisions and that it would be his substituted judgment to accept antipsychotic medication in accordance with WRC's proposed treatment plan. The judge issued written findings and authorized treatment that included antipsychotic medications. A.H. filed a notice of appeal of the § 8B order. A.H.'s commitment expired before this appeal was heard.

At the § 8B hearing, A.H.'s treating psychiatrist offered her opinion that A.H. suffered from a disorder of thought and mood and had a current diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Evidence was introduced that A.H. had shown behavior consistent with antisocial personality disorder. A.H.'s symptoms were marked by a pattern of unstable mood and multiple assaults on others that often necessitated restraints. The treating psychiatrist opined that A.H. was not competent to make decisions relative to treatment with antipsychotic medications and that he would benefit from the administration of medications to reduce his symptoms. Additional testimony was introduced regarding A.H.'s lack of any religious beliefs that would interfere with the administration of medications, and the lack of family involvement. The treating psychiatrist offered her opinion that A.H., if he were competent, would accept the proposed course of treatment involving antipsychotic medications, as they would help reduce the frequency of his assaults on others and increase the probability that he could live in the community outside of a hospital.

The psychiatrist who testified on behalf of A.H. agreed with the treating psychiatrist's diagnosis, and confirmed that A.H. had a history of violent assaultive behavior. He did not agree, however, that A.H. should be treated with antipsychotic medications. He opined that these medications had not been effective in treating A.H.'s disorder, and had served only to sedate A.H. He also testified that antipsychotic medications present the risk of significant side effects, and that in light of possible side effects and the fact that A.H. had continued to be

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violent and assaultive after taking antipsychotic medications in the past, A.H. would not accept this form of treatment if he were competent to decide this issue for himself.

In this appeal, A.H. asserts that the evidence established that the approved medications were dangerous to his health; had been ineffective in treating his assaultive behavior in the past; and were intended only to sedate him. He argues that in light of these circumstances, the evidence introduced at the District Court commitment hearing was insufficient to warrant a finding that A.H. would accept treatment in accordance with the approved treatment plan if he were capable of making an informed decision.

At the time this matter was argued before us, A.H. was no longer subject to the orders of the Worcester District Court, and did not have a personal stake in the outcome of this appeal. This appeal therefore was moot. Generally, we do not decide moot issues. Norwood Hosp. v. Munoz, 409 Mass. 116, 121 (1991). On many occasions, however, we have found appeals from mental health commitment orders to be matters of public importance that are capable of repetition and evading review, and we have decided them despite their mootness. Here, however, A.H.'s appeal concerns the sufficiency and the weight of the evidence supporting the judge's order under G.L. c. 123, § 8B. The circumstances of this case are particular to A.H. and are not capable of repetition in others. A.H. raises no grounds on appeal that are of public importance, and the question presented is not certain or even very likely to arise again. See Kane v. Commisioner of Correction, 395 Mass. 1002, 1002-1003 (1985); Lockhart v. Attorney Gen., 390 Mass. 780, 783 (1984); Matter of L.C., 2015 Mass. App. Div. 98, 100-101.

Based on these circumstances, we have determined that this appeal is moot and that there is no basis for making an exception to the general rule against deciding moot questions. We therefore will not decide this appeal, and we order that the appeal is dismissed.

So ordered.