Suppose you have a family member who has a serious issue (like alcoholism or drug addiction) which they refuse to get help for, and it gets to the point where they pose a serious threat to themselves. Then would it be legal to give them a sedative without their knowledge to put them to sleep, and then call an ambulance to take them to the hospital?

The country whose laws I'm interested in is India.

  • It is worth remembering that, in many jurisdiction, individuals can refuse medical treatment, no matter how severe the consequences of the lack of treatment. There are a few exceptions (minors or people that have been deemed mentally unfit) but in general, if the individual can understand the consequences of his acts he cannot be treated against his will. As long as you do not get a court order stating that you are the legal tutor of that person, as soon as they get to the hospital they can just walk away.
    – SJuan76
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 11:29

1 Answer 1


In all common law countries, this would be the tort of battery (thus, illegal). The police might lawfully lay hands on the person, under certain conditions. First, the police would have to be legally arresting the person; second, the person would have to be (unlawfully) resisting that arrest. If the person acts in a way that a police officer "has reason to believe to be so mentally ill as to be incapable of taking care of himself", he may arrest the person (Mental Health Act 1987 art. 23). Part III (art. 20 ff) provides the legal background for the second path for arrest, via involuntary commitment. Under the circumstances you describe, a court would have to first order the person taken into custody (leading to an arrest, and possibly being subdued). The police would not be authorized to administer a sedative, so they would have to use physical restraint (handcuffs, hammer-lock and so on). The process is either initiated by a psychiatric professional, or by a relative (art. 20), then the court determines whether the person is to be so detained.

  • OK, so a "citizen's arrest" would not be valid in this kind of situation? Commented May 13, 2017 at 1:18
  • It would if the arresting person witnessed the arrestee committing a crime. If you witness a person drinking in Bihar, you can arrest them (consumption is a prison offense). But "being an alcoholic" is not itself a crime.
    – user6726
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 1:28
  • OK, and posing a threat to oneself doesn't constitute a valid grounds for a citizens' arrest, as long as the person is not committing a crime? Commented May 13, 2017 at 1:32
  • I found a website that says "Finally, misdemeanor arrests without a warrant may be permitted, depending on the jurisdiction, for breaches of the peace, protection from the mentally-ill and prevention of serious harm to property." So it seems at least in some jurisidctions, citizens' arrest for mental illness is allowed under some certain circumstances. Commented May 13, 2017 at 2:03
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    That last condition is highly unusual and jurisdiction-specific (requires specific statutes): I would be surprised if it exists in India, which generally adheres to common law principles.
    – user6726
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 4:01

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