AARP Opposes Senate Move To Complicate End-of-Life Care in Idaho

Mar 14, 2011, 14:40 ET from AARP Idaho

Senate Cmte. Passage of "Fix" to State's "Conscience" Law Will Leave Patients & Families Uncertain of Where to Get End-of-Life Care

BOISE, Idaho, March 14, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a move that will leave hundreds of thousands of Idahoans uncertain of where to get the end-of-life medical care they want, today, the Senate State Affairs Committee advanced legislation, House Bill 187, further complicating last year's "conscience" law.  The bill, which continues to allow a health care professional's conscience to trump a patient's legal advance medical directive, is being strongly opposed by AARP in Idaho.

"The 'conscience' law has created much angst, concern and outrage from people across Idaho as it leaves their legal end-of-life rights in limbo, this bill does nothing to fix that,"  said Jim Wordelman, State Director for AARP in Idaho.   "Every bill to effectively fix the law has been stalled or killed by lawmakers at the committee level – keeping Idaho residents from change they need to ensure their legal rights are protected."

Over the last year, thousands of phone calls, emails, and letters have flooded the State Capitol, calling for a fix to the law to ensure a health care professional's conscience can no longer override a patient's legal rights.  House Bill 187, which does not fix the issue, now goes to the full Senate for a vote – the last stop before hitting the Governor's desk.

"Our 180,000 members in Idaho are very interested in who voted to protect their rights and who didn't when it comes to this issue, and we plan to let them know," added Wordelman.

AARP has made HB 187 an "accountability vote" effort and will inform all members in every legislative district in Idaho how their legislators voted on the bill (a list of AARP members by legislative district can be found here:

AARP Idaho opposes HB 187 as the legislation:  

  • Does nothing to protect Idahoans' legal end-of-life wishes expressed in their advance medical directives, still allowing all health care professionals in Idaho to refuse to honor the legal documents.
  • Will continue to complicate end-of-life care and treatment in Idaho, by forcing patients to learn someone else's conscience at the wrong time, on their death bed.
  • Leaves Idaho patients and their families uncertain of where to get care during the final stages of life.
  • Is billed as addressing a "narrow" conflict in the conscience law, rather it is little more than a smoke and mirrors fix to the conscience law, making it harder to fix the original conscience law to protect the rights of state residents.
  • Attempts to prevent only doctors from being able to deny advance directives, but still permits all other health care professionals to refuse to honor the legal documents, conflicting with the language in law which states all health care professionals can refuse health care services that violate their conscience.
  • May force hundreds of thousands of Idahoans to rewrite their advance directives – stating that they need to be in the care of someone who won't violate their end-of-life legal rights.

AARP is Idaho's largest membership organization with 180,000 members.

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