Judicial Order Authorizing Involuntary Administration of Medication in Hospital Setting

In re I.G., 2016 VT 95

Vermont Supreme Court reverses lower court order authorizing medication over objection of involuntarily committed patient because the lower court failed to make specific findings on whether patient’s written statement of objection to medication, made prior to hospitalization, was a competent refusal that had to be honored under Vermont law.

Background: I.G. was hospitalized at the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital (VPCH) pursuant to a court order stemming from an arrest for assaulting his girlfriend. I.G. was previously hospitalized at VPCH and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. When he was discharged from VPCH after the previous hospitalization, he started living at a residence for people with mental illness. While there, I.G. signed a document purported to be an advance directive stating that he did not want any psychiatric medication. Following I.G.’s current hospitalization, VCPH filed an application to involuntarily medicate I.G. After a hearing, the trial court ordered I.G.’s involuntary medication for 90 days. I.G. appealed. 

Holding: The Vermont Supreme Court ruled that the trial court did not adequately address the issue of whether the purported advance directive was a competent written expression or preference regarding medication according to Vermont statute. The court reversed and remanded for a determination of I.G.’s competency at the time of signing the advance directive.

Notable Point:

Advance directive: The Vermont Supreme Court reversed the decision of the trial court even though the advance directive at issue in this case did not meet the statutory requirements of an advance directive because it was not signed by two witnesses.

Found in DMHL Volume 35, Issue 3