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Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

Senate Advances Involuntary Medication Bill

The Vermont Senate has advanced a controversial bill dealing with the involuntary medication of patients with mental illness.

Hospitals, doctors and the families of some patients have asked lawmakers to speed up the process used to determine whether mentally ill patients should be medicated against their will.

They say the existing legal procedure can drag on for months. Bennington Senator Dick Sears said that can unnecessarily delay the recovery of people unable to recognize their need for treatment.

“And so I hope as you ponder whether to vote yes or no, and it truly is a vote of conscience I think for all of us, I hope you’ll think about it in terms of timely decisions," Sears told his fellow Senators.

But advocates for patients say the proposal threatens the civil rights of vulnerable Vermonters. And Windsor Senator Dick McCormack said legislators should err on the side of patient rights.

“If there’s a person, however, sick they are who doesn’t want to be medicated, let’s give them the maximum protection of their rights," McCormack said.

The legislation passed by a 26 - 4 vote Wednesday, and faces one more test in the Senate before it moves to the House.