Bill would ease use of advanced directives

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(Host) Backers of a new advanced medical directives bill say they’re optimistic that the measure will receive full legislative approval this year. Earlier this month the House Human Services Committee gave its unanimous support to the legislation. The measure is now being considered in the House Judiciary committee.

The legislation is designed to make it easier for individuals who want to create a legal document outlining the types of medical care they want in the event that they become incapacitated. The bill also creates a state registry so medical officials throughout Vermont can be aware of a person’s instructions.

Speaking Thursday night on VPR’s Switchboard program, the vice chair of the House Human Services committee, Michael Fisher, said he hopes the measure will be adopted this year:

(Fisher) “There’s a lot of ethical issues here and so it will take some time for this to move through the entire process. But I think that’s a good thing. It’s unfortunate for people who would like to take advantage of it right now but hopefully by the end of the year we will have a good bill that can be signed by the governor.”

(Host) There’s no doubt that the Terri Schiavo case has highlighted public interest in advanced directives. John Campbell is the executive director of the Vermont Ethics Network:

(Campbell) “Normally on our Web site we get 40 visits a day and consider that a fairly heavy day. On Tuesday of this week we had over 1,800. And we also looked at the number of people who’ve gone to the part of our Web site that has the forms for downloading and again I think the totals for this week are combined probably 3,000.”

(Host) Campbell estimates that roughly 25 percent of all Vermonters have advanced directives in place. He expects this number will grow significantly in the coming months.

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