Fate of Idaho Patients' Legal End-of-Life Rights Rests With Senate Vote

Mar 18, 2011, 13:48 ET from AARP Idaho

Senate to Consider Bill Allowing All Health Care Providers to say "NO" to Patients' Advance Directives, AARP Makes Issue an "Accountability Vote"

BOISE, Idaho, March 18, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Whether or not patients' legal end-of-life wishes will be upheld is at stake as the Idaho State Senate readies to vote on House Bill 187.  The legislation is being touted as a "fix" to last year's conscience law, which allows all health care professionals in Idaho to refuse to honor a patient's advance medical directives. AARP stands in strong opposition to the bill, calling it a smoke and mirrors fix being brought forward by the same groups that pressed for last year's conscience law.

"This bill still leaves patients' legal rights as expressed in their advance directives in limbo, allowing all health care professionals in Idaho to refuse to honor a patient's dying wishes when it violates their conscience," said Jim Wordelman, State Director for AARP in Idaho.  "The bill isn't a fix to the conscience law, rather, if passed; it will just be part of the problem and will continue to complicate Idahoans care at the end of their life."

AARP has made the vote part of its first "accountability vote" efforts and will record the roll call vote on the Idaho House Bill 187 and inform all of its 180,000 members in Idaho how their legislator voted and of the Association's opposition and concerns with the bill.  

AARP sent the following letter to all members of the Idaho House this morning notifying them of the effort.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Dear Legislator:

On behalf of our 180,000 members in Idaho, I wanted to update you on some of AARP's activities that relate to our legislative agenda.

AARP members are looking to us to keep them informed about what issues are being debated in the Idaho Capitol, and where their elected officials stand and vote on these critical issues.

Our members care deeply about ensuring their legal rights are honored and upheld, in particular those legal rights that relate to their end-of-life treatment and care as expressed in their advance directives – legal documents which they've prepared with much thought and care.  They want to know how the Idaho State Legislature is responding to the issue.

They want more information and we are determined to meet this need.  People need and deserve to know where their Representatives and Senators stand on the issues that matter most.  

Therefore, AARP will be recording House and Senate roll call votes on key issues, and informing our Idaho members of the results of these key votes – and how their elected officials voted.

AARP will track and report the upcoming House vote on House Bill 187, relating to the "conscience" law passed last year. AARP has grave concerns about this legislation and it's in ability to address protecting patients' legal rights in Idaho.  The bill continues to leave patients' legal rights, as expressed in their living wills and advance directives, in limbo, still allowing a health care professional's conscience to trump their wishes.  The bill addresses none of AARP's or our members concerns regarding the "conscience" law's impact on their legal rights, rather it simply muddies the water – continuing to provide care to patients who have expressed they no longer want to receive it invalidates their legal rights.

Stating, as the bill does, that once a conscience objection is expressed and an advance medical directive is in place, the health care professional (though the bill only states physicians) shall comply with the Medical Consent and Natural Death Act (which is meant to guide objections relating to ethical or professional reason) is inadequate – this would mean that a physician or health care provider who has a religious or moral objection to a patient's  advanced medical directive then make a "good faith" effort to assist the patient in finding someone else to provide the care in accordance with the patient's legal documents, while care is continued – rather than simply honor the patient's legal rights to begin with.  This could gravely complicate a very sensitive time.  When a patient can't speak and has a terminal illness is hardly the time to go doctor shopping.  While the argument has been made that the bill  ensures the patient still receives care, the purpose of those legal documents is often times when they would like care to end, if that isn't in line with a health care professional's conscience, then the documents will be deemed violated, putting someone else's conscience before the legal rights of Idahoans.

Idahoans are looking for their legislators to protect, not erode, their legal rights as the "conscience" law and HB 187 continue to do. AARP strongly urges you to oppose this legislation.

We will always provide advance notification of the votes that we will be recording, and fully inform you of AARP's position on the issue.

Please feel free to contact our offices (208-855-4004) with any questions about AARP's legislative priorities or this program.


James E. Wordelman

Sr. State Director

AARP Idaho