Rennie v. Klein, Civ. A. No. 77-2624.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
Citation462 F. Supp. 1131
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 77-2624.
PartiesJohn E. RENNIE, Plaintiff, v. Ann KLEIN, Commissioner of Human Services, Michail Rotov, Director, Division of Mental Health and Hospitals, Richard Wilson, Chief Executive Officer of Ancora Psychiatric Hospital, Max Pepernik, Acting Medical Director of Ancora Psychiatric Hospital, Edward Wallace, Assistant Administrator of Ancora Psychiatric Hospital, and Josefina Bugaoan, Assistant Medical Director of Ancora Psychiatric Hospital, Defendants.
Decision Date12 December 1978



Stanley C. Van Ness, Public Advocate, by Sheldon Gelman, Asst. Deputy Public Advocate, Trenton, N. J., for plaintiff.

John J. Degnan, Atty. Gen. of N. J., by Steven Wallach, Deputy Atty. Gen., Trenton, N. J., for defendants.


BROTMAN, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on the motion of plaintiff, John E. Rennie, for a preliminary injunction pursuant to Fed.R. Civ.P. 65. Plaintiff is an involuntary patient of Ancora Psychiatric Hospital, a state institution. He seeks to enjoin the defendant psychiatrists and officials at Ancora from forcibly administering drugs to him in the absence of an emergency situation. The complaint is grounded on 42 U.S.C. § 1983, with jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1343. The following are the court's findings of fact and conclusions of law, Fed.R.Civ.P. 52.

I. Procedural History

The complaint in this action was filed on December 22, 1977. While the complaint is stated in six counts, plaintiff essentially charged defendants with violations of four rights: (1) the right to refuse medication in non-emergent circumstances, (2) the right to treatment, (3) the right of access to counsel, and (4) the right to be free from physical abuse while in custody.

On the same date, counsel for Mr. Rennie, Sheldon Gelman of the New Jersey Public Advocate's Office, and counsel for the state officials, Steven D. Wallach, Deputy Attorney General, appeared in chambers on an application for a temporary restraining order. The parties agreed that only the issue of the right to refuse medication would be considered on the motion for a preliminary injunction. In an order prepared that day and filed December 30th, it was ordered that plaintiff not be medicated against his will beyond a maintenance dosage except in emergencies. Counsel agreed, after consultation with the state psychiatrists, that a maintenance dosage would be 15 mg. of prolixin hydrochloride per day. Dr. Marvin Greenberg, plaintiff's expert, was named temporary consultant to the court.

On January 13, 1978, hearings on the motion for preliminary injunction began. The court conducted fourteen days of hearings; the final day was April 28, 1978. Testimony was taken from hospital officials and employees; three Ancora psychiatrists, Dr. Rotov, Director of the state Division of Mental Health and Hospitals, three psychiatrists from outside the state system produced by plaintiff, and two outside psychiatrists produced by defendant.1 Counsel were then allowed to prepare proposed findings and briefs.

During the lengthy course of these hearings, plaintiff attempted suicide by swallowing an overdose of pills on April 10, 1978. Transcript, Volume X, page 5, April 12, 1978 (hereafter cited in the form Tr. X, 5, 4/12/78). Defendants moved to remove the temporary restraining order on April 12. Instead, the court reserved decision and requested that all doctors involved in Mr. Rennie's case convene on April 14, to attempt to reach a consensus on the future course of plaintiff's treatment. The psychiatrists agreed that plaintiff should be treated immediately with an antidepressant medication, followed by the use of lithium carbonate when his depression lifted. There was disagreement over when an antipsychotic drug should be used. On the representation that the lithium—antidepressant regime would be commenced and that plaintiff consented thereto, the temporary restraining order was dissolved by order dated April 18, 1978.

It should be noted that on April 12, Dr. Max Pepernik, Medical Director of Ancora, had stated that if any antipsychotic medication (these drugs are also called "psychotropics") were resumed as treatment, it would not be prolixin because of plaintiff's aversion to that drug. Tr. X, 14. Based on the hearings, the court certainly agrees that this is appropriate. However, much of the court hearing was devoted to examining studies of this particular drug. Defendants argue that, to the extent plaintiff seeks to enjoin the use of prolixin, this case is moot since defendants are not now using that drug and have indicated no plans to do so. Defendants' Proposed Findings of Fact, No. 23, June 23, 1978.

On May 19, 1978, plaintiff brought the parties before this court seeking to restrain the hospital's use of thorazine, another psychotropic drug. Since the April 28 hearing, it was reported that the hospital gave Mr. Rennie every possible chance on lithium but that he was dangerous to himself, other patients, and the staff. After placing Mr. Rennie in restraints for three days, the decision was made to medicate him with thorazine. Relief was denied plaintiff pending briefing by the parties and the issuance of this opinion, unless plaintiff was prepared to put forward further medical testimony. Thus, while the issue as to prolixin may be moot, defendants have used other drugs of the same type since April. Since the testimony indicates that the benefits and detrimental side effects of all psychotropic drugs are similar, the case as a whole is not moot.

II. The Plaintiff's Personal History

John Rennie is a highly intelligent2 38 year old white divorced male. Before his psychiatric difficulties began, he worked as a pilot and a flight instructor. His first symptoms of mental illness appeared in December 1971. Def. Exh. 2, Case History. Serious problems commenced early in 1973, in the wake of his twin brother's death in an airplane accident.

His medical history is lengthy and can only be highlighted here. His first admission to Ancora Psychiatric Hospital was on April 1, 1973. He was depressed and suicidal, and diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. Mellaril, an antipsychotic drug, was given, and plaintiff was released on April 5 to the Fairmont Farms Hospital, a private facility. Def. Exh. 2; Testimony of Dr. Ortanez, Tr. II, 100, 1/19/78.

There followed a revolving door series of readmissions and releases. His second admission was from May 2, 1973 to June 1, 1973, with plaintiff exhibiting similar suicidal ideas and religious delusions. By his third admission, from February 18 to February 26, 1974, he began to exhibit some aggressive and abusive symptoms. Thorazine, another antipsychotic drug, was used. Delusions that he was Christ continued in the fourth admission in March 1974. Tr. II, 102-04.

Subsequent admissions showed further trials of different medicines. During the sixth admission, from April 9 to May 7, 1974 on a voluntary commitment, there is the first indication of a refusal to take medication. He was discharged against medical advice. His eighth admission, on a voluntary commitment from August 26 to September 10, 1974, was initiated when the Secret Service brought him to state authorities after he threatened to kill President Ford. His behavior again was abusive and assaultive. This type of assaultive behavior continued during his ninth admission from September 18 to October 12, 1974, so that the hospital placed him on homicidal precautions. Def. Exh. 2; Testimony of Dr. Ortanez, Tr. II, 100-04. He was also on homicidal precautions during his tenth admission in January 1975. His eleventh admission was involuntary and lengthy, from November 16, 1975 to June 9, 1976. His behavior was erratic, alternating between being depressed and suicidal to manic and homicidal. There was a suicide attempt on December 14 by an overdose of mellaril. Ortanez, Tr. II, pp. 37-38. Both psychotropic drugs, such as haldol, mellaril and prolixin decanoate, as well as lithium, were utilized. During this hospitalization, his diagnosis for a time was changed to manic depressive illness. Def. Exh. 2.

Throughout this period, plaintiff was inconsistent in his attitude toward the various medications, refusing at times and cooperating at others. Ortanez, Tr. III, 101. One of many causes of his repeated discharges and readmissions is his failure to continue taking medications after he has left the hospital's custody.

Plaintiff's twelfth and present admission to Ancora began on August 10, 1976, pursuant to an involuntary commitment. N.J. S.A. 30:4-27. Although committed, he has never been declared incompetent. See N.J. S.A. 30:4-24.2(c). The admitting diagnosis was manic depressive illness, circular type. He was placed on lithium and on suicidal and homicidal precautions. Later psychotropic drugs were added. Again, at various times, medication was refused. In December 1976, the Public Advocate's Office became involved in Mr. Rennie's case. After conversation with Mr. Gelman, the hospital agreed that medication would not be forced against the patient's will. Following an injection of prolixin decanoate on January 5, 1977, plaintiff became extremely psychotic and threatened suicide. During 1977, plaintiff was shifted between a number of medications, including thorazine, prolixin, etrafon, haldol, elavil, and lithium. Frequent incidents of fights with other patients and attendants were reported. Suicidal and delusional periods were also reported.

One particular incident prior to the commencement of this lawsuit should be noted. On November 17, 1977, plaintiff reported that evening shift attendants beat him with sticks while he was tied to a bed. The next day he pointed out the sticks, which were hidden at the nurses' station. Tr. IX, 7, 4/12/78. The investigation that...

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    ...this right in the prison context, a case we recognize as being closely related to the situation at bar. Likewise, Rennie v. Klein, 462 F.Supp. 1131 (D.N.J.1978), affirmed, 653 F.2d 836 (3d Cir.1981) (en banc ), vacated in light of Youngberg v. Romeo, 458 U.S. 1119, 102 S.Ct. 3506, 73 L.Ed.2......
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