House Passes Shock Treatment Legislation in Vermont

By Morgan W. Brown
January 20, 2000

Within the walls of the Vermont Legislature today (Thursday, January 20, 2000), H. 12 - a bill supposedly dealing with providing citizens with the illusion of "informed consent" regarding shock treatment (ECT) was passed by the House. The shock bill will now be brought under consideration in the Senate.

During the floor action in the House, there was an amendment offered to the bill before it was read the third time and passed. The amendment offered by Rep. Bouricius of Burlington was in two parts and at his request was divided into two separate questions to be voted on.

The first of these concerned whether the Department of Developmental and Mental Health Services (DDMHS) "Shall" promulgate and "adopt rules to govern the practice of electroconvulsive therapy" was defeated. Instead, the House decided to allow the fox to not just guard the chicken coop, but it "May" adopt rules about doing so.

On a division vote, the second question was passed by a mere six votes. That amendment to the previously amended bill, regards the section on reporting requirements and a committee to be created on guardianship relating to electroconvulsive therapy for individuals with developmental disabilities or mental illness by H.12 when passed. The change was in language being added in Sec. 2(c). The words "on consent materials and procedures and," were added after the word "report" in the first sentence of that section. As passed, the section amended now reads:

Sec. 2(c), The committee shall make recommendations, in the form of a report on consent materials and procedures and, for revision to the current guardianship statute and rules to ensure that individuals with developmental disabilities or mental illness, lacking capacity to make medical decisions relating to electroconvulsive therapy, have access to a fair and adversarial probate court process and have legal representation by knowledgeable counsel. The committee's report shall be submitted to the General Assembly on or before January 1, 2001.

After the amendment was voted on, the shock bill was passed on third reading. It will now go to the Senate for their consideration and for passage there.