From 1997 FMSF Newsletter, Vol. 6, No. 6
L E G I S L A T I V E U P D A T E
Informed Consent Bill Signed into Law in Indiana
In April, 1995, families in Indiana decided that they would approach the legislature with regard to sponsoring an "informed consent"1 bill in an effort to correct the problem of repressed memory therapy. Representative John S. Keeler agreed to sponsor the bill but had heard that there was already an informed consent bill (Senate Bill No 210) prepared to address the problem. SB 210 had been introduced by Senator Patricia Miller in response to numerous complaints from her constituency. It was soon learned, however, that the informed consent bill sought to be introduced contained language which would have effectively legitimized "Uncovering Psychotherapy" and hypnotic techniques used to conduct such therapy (including, "hypnotic age regression" and "hypnotic memory enhancement"). Indiana families set about to educate the legislators about the serious problems with these techniques, and the language was deleted from SB 210. Due to the controversy surrounding the legislation, it was agreed that SB 210 would serve as a temporary bill pending the findings of Mental Health Practice Study Committee (see FMSF Newsletter, May 1996). The committee held four hearings in which senators and representatives heard from both mental health professionals and families devastated by the effects of repressed memory therapy.
On April 17, 1997, Indiana Governor Frank O'Bannon signed into law Senate Bill No. 309 which contains recommendations of the Mental Health Practice Study Committee formed last May under Senate Bill No 210. The Indiana Code now requires that mental health providers obtain consent from their patients before providing mental health services. Section 6, Indiana Code 16-36-1.5-10 has been added to the Indiana Code as a new Section to read:
A mental health provider shall inform each patient of the mental health provider about:
1) the mental health provider's training and credentials;
2) the reasonably foreseeable risks and relative benefits of proposed treatments and alternative treatments; and
3) the patient's right to withdraw consent for treatment at any time.
The Indiana Code also contains provisions for disciplinary sanctions if standards established by the board regulating the profession in question are not met. For example,
the practitioner may be subject to sanctions under amended Section 7. IC 25-1-9-4 if:
4) a practitioner has continued to practice although the practitioner has become unfit to practice due to:
A) professional incompetence that: I) includes the undertaking of professional activities that the practitioner is not qualified by training or experience to undertake,...B) failure to keep abreast of current professional theory or practice."
Mental health providers are defined as registered or licensed practical nurses, clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, psychologists, school psychologists and any individual who claims to be a mental health provider. SB 309 also states that a physician (therefore, psychiatrist) must obtain consent from each patient as provided in Indiana Code 27-12-12. The new law becomes effective July 1, 1997.
Christopher Barden, a psychologist, lawyer and President of the National Association for Consumer Protection in Mental Health Practices said, "The mental health system will never be the same again. Consumers will now have to be told that psychotherapists who want to talk about the patient's childhood are offering them what is at best an experimental and quite possibly a harmful procedure. We did not expect to see passage of portions of this Act (Truth and Responsibility in Mental Health Practices Act) for years. This is a stunning victory for our efforts to produce badly needed reforms in the psychotherapy industry...[t]he Indiana law is a major step in the right direction."
1. See Faden, R.R. and T. L Beauchamp, A History and Theory of Informed Consent (1986), New York: Oxford University Press (discusses origin and nature of the concept of "informed consent").