In urgent situations, people can be hospitalized against their will for up to 72 hours without the court’s permission. This is called preventive confinement.
People can be forced to go to the hospital against their will without a judge’s permission only if they present a grave and immediate danger to themselves or to others because of their mental state. This means the situation is so urgent that waiting for a court order would likely result in very serious harm.
For example, people have been forced to go to the hospital in these situations:
- they tried to kill themselves
- they threatened to kill someone else
- their mental state makes them unable to do things that are necessary to keep them alive, like following treatment for a physical health problem.
Who can ask for preventive confinement?
In an emergency, anyone can call the police or Info-Social 811 for help from a crisis intervention worker, if this service is available in your area. A crisis intervention worker can ask the police to take the person to the hospital without a court order.
A police officer can bring someone to the hospital without a judge’s permission if the person presents a grave and immediate danger to himself or others. The officer must tell the person why he is being brought to the hospital and that he can contact close relatives and a lawyer right away.
What happens at the hospital?
The hospital must take charge of the person and have him examined by a doctor as soon as possible. The hospital must also tell the person why he is being kept there and that he can contact close relatives and a lawyer right away.
If the person is under 18, the hospital must notify the person’s parent or person acting as parent or the guardian (tutor). If the person is an adult, the hospital must notify the person’s legal representative (mandatary, tutor or curator), if he has one.
How long can the hospital keep the person?
A doctor can decide to keep a person at the hospital for up to 72 hours. If the 72 hours ends on a weekend or holiday, the person can be kept at the hospital until the end of the next working day.
To keep people against their will for more than 72 hours, a hospital must get permission from the court. For more information about this process, read our articles on Forced Hospitalization for a Psychiatric Exam and Forced Hospitalization After Psychiatric Exams.