Mercer University Medical, Law Schools to Host Symposium on ‘Mental Health, Civil Rights, and Involuntary Treatment and Commitment’


MACON – Mercer University School of Medicine and the Walter F. George School of Law will host a symposium on “Mental Health, Civil Rights, and Involuntary Treatment and Commitment” June 11, 8 a.m.-12 p.m., in the Medical School Auditorium on the Macon campus. The event, intended for those in the health or legal fields, is free of cost.

The symposium – co-chaired by Dr. Richard F. Camino-Gaztambide, M.D., clinical associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Mercer, and Julia H. Magda, J.D., partner at Sell & Melton LLP – aims to address a need in the mental health community for knowledge regarding the laws for involuntary patient treatment and commitment.

“One of the difficulties encountered in addressing mental health disorders, in particular those with acute symptoms, is the patient refusal of treatment and interventions that could provide improvement in patients' functioning,” said Dr. Camino-Gaztambide. “This drives us to address two basic questions: What happens when a patient's ability to consent is compromised by their illness? And what parameters could justify involuntary treatment and commitment, while protecting human and civil rights?”

Objectives of the symposium include providing participants with current knowledge of legal aspects in the areas of informed consent, involuntary commitment and involuntary treatment; providing participants with current theories regarding human behavior, psychopathology and its relationship to decision-making; familiarizing participants with areas of controversy and concern of involuntary treatment and commitment from the legal, ethical and mental health sciences perspectives; providing practice guidelines for legal and mental health professionals on commitment and involuntary treatment cases; and providing recommendations for future research and inquiry on the legal, ethical and mental health aspects of commitment and involuntary treatment.

Breakfast will be served from 8-8:30 a.m., to be followed by a series of presentations.

Dr. Angela Hale, M.D., associate professor at Mercer and medical director for the Pavilion of The Medical Center of Central Georgia, will present “Psychiatric and Medical Aspects of Informed Consent.”

Dr. Camino-Gaztambide, who also serves as psychiatric clerkship director at Mercer, will present “Neurobiology of Cognition and Will and Its Relation to Psychopathology.” 

Magda will present “Legal Aspects of Informed Consent.”

Dr. Walker G. Carter, M.D., interim chair and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and associate dean of academic affairs at Mercer, will present “Psychiatric Criteria to Consider Involuntary Commitment and Involuntary Treatment.”

The Hon. Sarah S. Harris, Bibb County probate judge, will present “Legal and Judicial Criteria to Adjudicate Involuntary Treatment.”

Dr. Richard Elliott, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medical ethics and community medicine at Mercer, will present “Ethical and Moral Aspects of Involuntary Commitment and Involuntary Treatment.”

Isaac (Zack) Buck, J.D., MBE, assistant professor of law at Mercer's Walter F. George School of Law, and Gina Greenwood, J.D., health care regulatory attorney and counsel at Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC, will present “Civil Rights of Mental Health Patients under EMTALA and HIPAA.”

The presentations will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

To register, contact Novetta Reid at

About the Mercer University School of Medicine (Macon, Savannah and Columbus)

Mercer University's School of Medicine was established in 1982 to educate physicians and health professionals to meet the primary care and health care needs of rural and medically underserved areas of Georgia. Today, more than 60 percent of graduates currently practice in the state of Georgia, and of those, more than 80 percent are practicing in rural or medically underserved areas of Georgia. Mercer medical students benefit from a problem-based medical education program that provides early patient care experiences. Such an academic environment fosters the early development of clinical problem-solving and instills in each student an awareness of the place of the basic medical sciences in medical practice. The School opened a full four-year campus in Savannah in 2008 at Memorial University Medical Center. In 2012, the School began offering clinical education for third- and fourth-year medical students in Columbus. Following their second year, students participate in core clinical clerkships at the School's primary teaching hospitals: The Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon; Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah; and The Medical Center and St. Francis Hospital in Columbus. The School also offers master's degrees in family therapy, preclinical sciences and biomedical sciences and a Ph.D. in clinical medical psychology.

About Mercer Law School

Founded in 1873, the Mercer University Walter F. George School of Law is one of the oldest law schools in the United States and the first one in the state of Georgia accredited by the American Bar Association. Mercer Law School's educational philosophy is based on a broadly shared commitment to prepare students for the high-quality, general practice of law in a day-to-day learning environment that is both strongly supportive and consistently professional. Its innovative Woodruff Curriculum – which focuses on ethics and practical skills amid small class sizes – earned the Gambrell Professionalism Award from the ABA for its “depth of excellence.” With an enrollment of about 440 students, Mercer Law School is nationally recognized for its exceptional programs in legal writing, moot court, public service, and ethics and professionalism. For more information about Mercer Law School, visit or call (478) 301-5000.

Kyle Sears
Kyle is the director of media relations at Mercer. In addition to being the primary media contact for most academic and administrative units of the university, he coordinates hometown and university news releases and serves as editor of the News@Mercer e-newsletter and Reach magazine.​