The Effect on Commitment If Mental Health Records Are Destroyed

In Wolfe v. Beal, 477 Pa. 477, 384 A.2d 1187 (1977), the Supreme Court recognized an individual's right to reputation includes the right to have mental health records destroyed where a court finds the commitment null and void. In ordering the destruction of the plaintiff's mental health record, our Supreme Court stated: We cannot ignore the fact that many people in our society view mental illness with disdain and apprehension. The Court, in Commonwealth ex rel. Magaziner v. Magaziner, 434 Pa. 1, 253 A.2d 263 (1975), approved of the concept of protecting the reputation of a person who was unlawfully thrust into the criminal process by sanctioning the expungement of his criminal record. The Court should not do less for the plaintiff. The continued existence of the hospital records poses a threat to her reputation. Additionally, the Commonwealth Court's contention that the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Act, Act of October 20, 1966, Special Sess. No. 3, P.L. 96, as amended, 50 P.S. 4101-4704 prohibits the destruction of the plaintiff's hospital records is erroneous. This section states that records must be kept on persons who are "admitted or committed to any factility ... under any provision of this act". Since it has been adjudicated the plaintiff's commitment is null and void, she was never "admitted or committed to any facility ... under any provision of this act". Id. at 480-81, 384 A.2d at 1189.