4. Right to retain basic civil rights despite admission to the hospital

A patient keeps all civil rights unless a court has specifically limited or taken away a right. Civil rights include the right to free speech, the right to make decisions about property and sign contracts, the right to vote, the right to be free from discrimination, and the right to petition for a writ of habeas corpus (a document a patient can give to a court if he or she feels he or she is unlawfully detained). For example, the Washington Law Against Discrimination, RCW 49.60, states that a person cannot be treated differently based on his or her membership in a protected class (this includes race, color, national origin, sex, religious views, HIV status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability). A person does not lose that right when he or she is admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Similarly, if a person had the right to vote before admission to the hospital, that right cannot be taken away just because the person is in the hospital. For more information on voting rights, see DRW’s publication “Exercising the Right to Vote.”

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Go to Section II: What a patient can do when rights are taken away.

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