House Approves Advanced Medical Directives Legislation

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(Host) The Vermont House has given preliminary approval to legislation that makes it easier for Vermonters to fill out advanced medical directives. The directives would specify the kind of medical treatment an individual would like to receive in the event that they become incapacitated.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The lead sponsor of the bill, South Burlington Rep. Ann Pugh, says there’s no doubt that the publicity surrounding the Terri Schiavo case highlighted the need for the legislation, because Schiavo didn’t have a written medical directive in place – a situation that caused enormous problems between her husband and her parents.

But Pugh says the real motivation for the bill was a recent dismal review of Vermont’s existing laws dealing with advanced directives

(Pugh)”We got sort of an “F” relative to our public policy around advanced directives because we had a mandatory form which doesn’t carry all of the personal wishes that some might have – that it was too narrow. It only focused on health care, whereas we’re saying now in your advanced directive, you might want to talk about burial or you might want to talk about some other aspects – organ donation that kind of thing.”

(Kinzel) Pugh says the new bill will simplify the legal process for setting up an advanced directive – a process that requires individuals to designate another person to be their agent. The agent would be responsible to make certain that the individual’s wishes are carried out in the event that they become incapacitated.

(Pugh) “It gives people more options. It makes it simpler for people to outline what their wishes are and gives them greater flexibility in terms of changing their mind. It allows them to, and encourages them to appoint an agent to make those decisions when they are not able to. And it provides for creating a registry, so that if they wish, they can put their advanced directive somewhere where everyone will know where it is, as opposed to some suggestions we’ve gotten – like carry it in your back pocket or in your glove compartment.”

(Kinzel) The measure will come for final approval in the House on Wednesday afternoon.

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

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