Patient Rights

Helpful Information for Patients, Families, and Friends

It is important for patients to be aware of their rights. Please talk to a member of our clinical staff if you have questions or concerns.

This information is also available in Spanish.

Our Dedication to You

McLean Hospital is dedicated to the prevention and minimal use of restraint and seclusion and, whenever possible, to the elimination of these interventions.

This policy is consistent with our mission to treat people with dignity, respect, and mutuality; protect their rights; provide the best care possible; and assist them in their recovery.

We welcome your help in working with us to achieve these goals.

Privacy and Confidentiality

McLean Hospital policies and state and federal law protect the privacy of patient identities and information.

In general, any disclosure of clinical information requires a written consent from you, or, if you are under the age of 18, a parent or guardian. Disclosures, however, can occur without written consent in certain specific circumstances, such as by judicial order or in a medical emergency.

McLean staff are “mandated reporters” for child and elder abuse and have a duty to warn if it is felt that you are a danger to yourself or to someone else.


Under no circumstances will patients or patient-related issues be discussed with the media without written consent from you or your legal guardian.

Patient Code of Conduct

Everyone should expect a safe, caring, and inclusive environment in all our spaces.

Our Patient Code of Conduct helps us to meet this goal. Words or actions that are disrespectful, racist, discriminatory, hostile, or harassing are not welcome.

Read the full Patient Code of Conduct (accessible in multiple languages).

Voluntary Hospitalization

If you admit yourself on a conditional voluntary basis and wish to leave, you must notify the hospital in writing. The hospital then has three business days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays) in which to discharge you or petition the district court for your civil commitment.

Three-Day Involuntary Hospitalization Under Section 12(b)

Before being admitted for a three-day involuntary hospitalization in accordance with Massachusetts General Laws, you must be given the opportunity to choose conditional voluntary status.

The involuntary hospitalization expires after three business days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays) unless the hospital petitions the district court for your commitment.

A hearing will then be conducted within five business days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays) following the hospital’s petition to the court.

If you have been involuntarily hospitalized under Section 12(b), the hospital is required upon your request to contact the Committee for Public Counsel Services, and a lawyer will be appointed to meet with you.

If you have been involuntarily hospitalized under Section 12(b) and have reason to believe that the admission is the result of an abuse or misuse of the Section 12(b) admission process, you may request that an emergency hearing be held within 24 hours. The hospital will provide you or your attorney with a form to make this request.

What Is Admission Really Like at McLean?

Patient and clinician talk outside

Watch this video and read more about the admission process via McLean’s Clinical Evaluation Center. Learn what it’s really like to be treated at one of our world-class inpatient programs.

Patient and clinician talk outside

Court Commitment

If the hospital petitions the court for your commitment, you may be required to stay at the hospital until a judge makes a decision to commit or discharge you. The court will appoint a lawyer for you.

Right to Appeal Your Commitment

If the judge has ordered you to be involuntarily committed, and you believe you should no longer be hospitalized, you have the right to appeal the commitment.

To ask questions about your legal status at the hospital, contact McLean’s civil rights officer in Belmont at 617.855.3406 or in Middleborough at 774.419.1015.

Additionally, you may contact a legal advocate or your attorney as discussed at the end of this guide.

Daily Living

Visits and Telephone Calls

You have the right to receive visitors of your own choosing daily and in private, at reasonable times. You have the right to reasonable access to a telephone to make and receive confidential calls, unless the calls violate a criminal law or would unreasonably infringe on other persons’ use of the telephone.

You also have the right to visit or talk by telephone with your attorney or legal advocate, physician, psychologist, clergy, or social worker, at reasonable times.

When visits or telephone use may be temporarily suspended
Your right to telephone calls and to have visitors may not be restricted unless such access presents an imminent risk of harm (based on your history of visits or calls) and there is no other less-restrictive way of preventing that harm, or unless such access significantly interferes with the operation of the facility.

This restriction may not last longer than necessary and must be documented with specific facts in your medical record.


You have the right to send and receive sealed, unopened, and uncensored mail. However, for good cause, your mail may be opened and inspected in front of you without it being read by staff, for the sole purpose of preventing contraband coming into the hospital.

Additionally, you have the right to be provided with stationery and postage in reasonable amounts.

Personal Possessions and Searches

You have the right to wear your own clothes and to keep personal items, including certain toilet articles, as safety permits. You have the right to individual storage space and to keep and spend a small amount of money.

You have the right not to have unreasonable searches of yourself or your possessions.


You have the right to exercise your religious beliefs.

Psychological and Physical Environment

You have the right to a humane psychological and physical environment.

You must be provided living quarters and accommodations that afford you privacy and security in resting, sleeping, dressing, reading, writing, bathing, toileting, and in practicing personal hygiene.

This does not include the right to individual sleeping quarters.

Fresh Air

You have the right to reasonable daily access to the outdoors. These activities may be dependent on weather conditions as well as your clinical condition and safety, as determined by your treating clinicians.

Personal Affairs

You do not lose the right to vote, hold a driver’s license, marry, enter into contracts, and draft a will because you have been admitted to a psychiatric hospital or inpatient program. However, these rights may be affected by the terms of a guardianship or by your mental status.


You have the right to an interpreter at no cost to you.

Care and Treatment

Right to Treatment

You have the right to receive treatment that is suited to your needs and administered skillfully, safely, and humanely, with full respect for your dignity and personal integrity.

Information About Your Illness and Its Treatment

You have the right to be told the nature of your illness, the reason clinicians believe you need treatment, and the availability of alternative treatments. You have the right to know the name and position of your physician and other staff responsible for your care and treatment.

Right to Consent and Refuse Treatment

You have the right to consent to or refuse psychiatric medication or other treatment, except in an emergency or when a court has appointed a guardian to give consent for you or has ordered a particular treatment for you.

Before consenting to any treatment or research, you have the right to be informed of its purpose, risks, side effects, and likely outcome, as well as the availability of alternative treatments (including the alternative of no treatment).

You may change your mind and withdraw your consent at any time after granting it.

Access to Medical Records

You have the right to see your own treatment records unless doing so would result in serious harm to you. Your attorney may inspect your treatment records. Your records may also be released to others when authorized by you or otherwise allowed by law.

Participation in Treatment Planning

You have the right to participate in planning and implementing your treatment to the maximum extent possible.

Participation in Research

You have the right to choose whether to participate as a research subject or in any treatment examination whose primary purpose is educational or informational. If you choose not to participate, your refusal will not affect your access to essential care.

Restraint and Seclusion

You may be restrained or secluded only in an emergency—when there is an immediate and substantial danger to yourself and others—as prescribed by Massachusetts law.

You may be secluded or restrained only for as long as it is necessary to protect you or others from harm. Your condition must be carefully monitored during restraint or seclusion.

If you are restrained or secluded, you will have an opportunity later to comment on its use and the circumstances leading up to it.

Rules, Regulations, and Laws Governing Treatment

You have the right to review a copy of the rules and regulations that relate to your care and treatment at McLean. You may have additional rights granted by other state or federal laws and regulations.

Complaint Process

Filing a Complaint

You have the right to file a complaint if you believe your care or treatment is inhumane, dangerous, or illegal. Hospital employees or the McLean civil rights officer will assist you in filing a complaint if you request assistance. Complaint forms are available in each program.

Issues regarding individual care and treatment should first be discussed with your treatment team before filing a complaint. In the event that further assistance is needed, you may contact the clinical director of your program.

Clinical issues that have not been satisfactorily resolved by your treatment team or the clinical director may be referred to the chief quality and risk management officer at 617.855.3128.

Complaints are filed with the chief quality and risk management officer. If the chief quality and risk management officer believes the complaint is serious, they will forward the complaint to the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH). The DMH licensing director will investigate and issue a written decision within 40 days.

All complaints will be investigated by the hospital’s chief quality and risk management officer and a written decision will be issued within 10 days.

Complaints or concerns regarding quality of care or safety also may be directed to the organizations listed at the end of this guide. The civil rights officer is available to refer you to the proper person(s) for issues requiring the attention of other organizations not listed.


You have the right to request reconsideration of the decision issued, as indicated above.

Such a request must be sent to the person who issued the decision and must be done in writing within 10 days of receipt of the decision. Such a request must specify the failure to interview an essential witness or the failure to consider an important fact or factor.

The decision of such a reconsideration will be issued within 10 days of receipt of the request for reconsideration.


You have the right to appeal either a decision on the original complaint or a decision on a reconsideration. All appeals must be made in writing within 10 days of receipt of the applicable decision. Forms are available from the hospital’s chief quality and risk management officer.

Appeal from decision of chief quality and risk management officer
Your appeal must be made to the DMH licensing director who will investigate and render a decision within 40 days from receiving the appeal.

You have the right to further appeal a decision to the DMH commissioner, who will issue a final decision on an appeal within 30 days of its receipt.

Appeal from decision of DMH licensing director
Your appeal must be made to the DMH commissioner who will issue a final decision within 30 days.

Access to legal advocacy organizations
Upon admission or upon your request at any time while you are hospitalized, you must be provided with contact information for the Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee, Committee for Public Counsel Services, Center for Public Representation, Disability Law Center, and other organizations listed in this guide.

These groups offer free legal assistance to psychiatric patients; you must be provided reasonable assistance in contacting attorneys or paralegals from these organizations and in meeting with them if they visit the hospital.

Civil Rights

Issues regarding a patient’s civil rights or hospitalization may be discussed with the McLean civil rights officer in Belmont at 617.855.3406 or the McLean civil rights officer in Middleborough at 774.419.1015.

Patient Resources

Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine
178 Albion Street, Suite 330
Wakefield, MA 01880

Joint Commission
One Renaissance Boulevard
Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181

Massachusetts Department of Mental Health
25 Staniford Street
Boston, MA 02114
617.626.8000 (Central Office)
800.221.0053 (Information and Resource Line)

Committee for Public Counsel Services
75 Federal Street, 6th floor
Boston, MA 02110

Disability Law Center
11 Beacon Street, Suite 925
Boston, MA 02108

Massachusetts Department of Public Health Bureau of Health Care Safety and Quality
67 Forest Street
Marlborough, MA 01752

Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee
24 School Street, Suite 804
Boston, MA 02108

Center for Public Representation
246 Walnut Street, Suite 202
Newton, MA 02460
22 Green Street
Northampton, MA 01060

Industry Disclosure

Many Mass General Brigham (MGB) doctors work closely with companies that make drugs or medical equipment or provide other products and services.

When our doctors work with these companies, it results in the development of new and better ways to diagnose and treat illness, and benefits the health of the public.

Sometimes the companies pay MGB doctors for services, such as consulting or giving educational talks. Doctors may also own stock in these companies. We review all of these relationships to make sure our policy is followed so that your care is not affected in any way.

Information about these relationships is available at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Open Payments website, sponsored by the federal government.

To learn more about the MGB policy and how MGB handles doctors’ relationships with outside companies, visit the Mass General Brigham Office for Interactions With Industry website.

If you have questions about these relationships, please ask your doctor or contact the Office for Interactions With Industry.

Nondiscrimination and Accessibility

Notice Informing Individuals About Nondiscrimination and Accessibility Requirements and Nondiscrimination Statement: Discrimination Is Against the Law

McLean Hospital complies with applicable federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, citizenship, alienage, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or disability.

McLean Hospital does not exclude people or treat them differently because of race, color, national origin, citizenship, alienage, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or disability.

McLean Hospital provides free aids and services to people with disabilities to communicate effectively with us, such as:

  • Qualified sign language interpreters
  • Written information in other formats (large print, audio, accessible electronic formats, other formats)

McLean Hospital provides free language services to people whose primary language is not English, such as:

  • Qualified interpreters
  • Information written in other languages

If you need interpreter services, contact our Civil Rights Officer.

If you believe that McLean Hospital has failed to provide these services or discriminated in another way on the basis of race, color, national origin, citizenship, alienage, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or disability, you can file a grievance with:

Patient Civil Rights Office
McLean Hospital
115 Mill Street
Belmont, MA 02478
Phone: 617.855.3406
Fax: 617.855.2574

You can file a grievance in person or by mail or fax. If you need help filing a grievance, our Civil Rights Officer is available to help you.

You can also file a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), electronically through the Office for Civil Rights Complaint Portal or by mail or phone at:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW Room 509F, HHH Building
Washington, DC 20201
Phone: 800.368.1019, 800.537.7697 (TDD)

Or by contacting the OCR New England Regional Office at:

Office for Civil Rights U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Government Center J.F. Kennedy Federal Building, Room 1875
Boston, MA 02203
Phone: 800.368.1019, 800.537.7697 (TDD)

Complaint forms are available online.

Interpreter Services

McLean Hospital is committed to providing the highest quality of care possible, including clear and accessible communication about clinical treatment. At no cost to McLean patients, we provide support and services for individuals whose first language is not English and for those who are deaf or hard of hearing or visually impaired.

For more information, please contact Interpreter Services at 617.855.2503.

Please let your clinicians know in advance about your language or hearing needs. If you need an interpreter while at McLean, please contact program staff.

Available Services

In order to facilitate care between patients and families and health care providers, trained medical interpreters are available in person, by phone, or via video remote feed, depending on the patient’s needs and the immediate availability of an interpreter. View the list of available language interpreters.

TTYs and assistive listening devices are available for deaf and hard of hearing patients. Please let a staff member know if you need these services.

We also offer support for McLean Hospital and Massachusetts Department of Mental Health documents and forms. Please contact Interpreter Services for assistance.

Please talk to your clinician or contact Interpreter Services if you need additional support.