Mental Retardation

In many states, parents of a child with mental retardation who has reached the age of majority (18 or 21) are not automatically their child's legal guardian and therefore have no legal authority to consent to their child's treatment until they have been appointed guardians by the court. This appointment depends on the degree of mental retardation, because an adult with mild mental retardation may not need a guardian. Even after being appointed as legal guardians, parents cannot provide consent for psychiatric hospitalization or treatment with anti-psychotic medications without a court order. Parents or legal guardians can provide consent for hos-pitalization of a minor with mental retardation who is in need of psychiatric admission. A patient over age 16 with mild mental retardation who has the capacity to consent to psychiatric admission and treatment may do so even if his or her legal guardian objects. If the patient refuses the admission but is considered to be in need of such after evaluation by a clinician, then a court order must be obtained.

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