Bill would support advance directives for end of life care

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(Host) Legislation that would give people additional rights to determine their end of life health care has been unanimously adopted by the House Human Services committee. Backers of the bill say it’s needed because the current system is too complicated and is occasionally ignored by doctors.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The legislation is designed to make it easier for individuals to designate the kind of care they want to receive in end of life situations if they’re no longer able to articulate their wishes.

Currently, people can use living wills and a durable power of attorney to deal with these issues. But the chairwoman of the House Human Services committee, Ann Pugh, says many Vermonters are not using these tools because they’re too expensive and too complicated.

Pugh says the legislation allows individuals to outline their desires in a relatively straightforward manner as long as the document is witnessed by two other people. Pugh says a recent study of Vermont’s laws dealing this issue produced some disappointing results and highlighted the need for some changes:

(Pugh) “We got rated very poorly, if not an F, by a national association in terms of our end of life care and public policy around it. We need this to clarify some of the inconsistencies. We need this to make sure that there are protections for individuals in terms of, they get to choose, they get to write down and choose how they want to be treated when they’re near death and they get to pick who is going to be the decision maker if they aren’t able to make those decisions.”

(Kinzel) Pugh says the bill is also needed because her committee took testimony that some doctors are not honoring decisions outlined in living wills:

(Pugh) “We heard testimony from some individuals that that in fact was happening. And so we tried make it clear about the obligations of not only the health care provider but also the health care facility in ensuring that the wishes of the advance directive, the wishes of the person who is dying are followed.”

(Kinzel) The legislation will now be reviewed by the House Judiciary Committee.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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