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Speakers clash over need for written consent for antipsychotic drugs

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Physicians and consumer advocates clashed over regulations on prescribing psychoactive drugs to nursing home residents, during a legislative committee meeting Tuesday at the State House.

Three bills — two in the Senate, one in the House — would require that doctors obtain patients’ or their legal representative’s written consent before prescribing antipsychotics and other powerful mind-altering drugs in nursing homes, as well as hospitals.

The patient advocates, professional caregivers, and legal experts supporting the bills said they were a start, but did not go far enough to curb the rampant use of these drugs. The bills’ opponents — represented by three doctors from the Massachusetts Psychiatric Society — warned against adding legal hurdles to doctors’ abilities to prescribe medicine that might be necessary to treat the mentally ill elderly.

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