The authors of "Deinstitutionalization Hasn't Worked" contend that weak state laws concerning involuntary psychiatric treatment are a major cause of suffering for people with mental illness [op-ed, July 9].

However, court-ordering people into treatment is a severe curtailment of basic human rights. Who among us would want to be forcibly taken to a hospital, subdued and medicated by a person unknown to us? Further, who would instigate such action? Whoever seeks the court order -- whether parents, sibling, roommates or others -- such an action would seem a betrayal of trust and probably would destroy any healthy therapeutic relationship.

Before we set out on such an extreme course, let us first create a system that responds to those mentally ill people who ask for help prior to their tragic acts.

JEAN ARNOLD

New York

In their op-ed column "Deinstitutionalization Hasn't Worked," E. Fuller Torrey and Mary T. Zdanowicz present a variety of supporting data about deinstitutionalization, but none drawn from the personal experiences of the alleged mentally ill. As one who, unfortunately, used America's mental health services, I am grateful for the legislation and compassionate thinking that allowed the doors to swing open to a career, family and life for me. I don't understand why the authors wish to reverse the flow toward independence for thousands of law-abiding mentally impaired citizens because of the actions of a few. The authors mention the well-known Capitol Hill shootings. But how many violent crimes are committed by those undergoing psychiatric treatment? What about Colombine High?

Deinstitutionalization and civil rights are closely related, and no one is writing opinion pieces such as "Civil Rights Haven't Worked." Possibly the writers are sad to see their abusive mental health structure crumbling; however, I say let it come tumbling down.

J. R. SPALL

Reston