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Idaho House Committee Says "Conscience" Trumps Patients' Rights

State Affairs Advances Legislation Allowing Health Care Professionals to Trump Advance Directives & Living Wills for End-of-Life Care

BOISE, Idaho, March 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A living will or advance directive for end of life care may soon be worthless documents in Idaho if state legislators have their way – and that's news that has older Idahoans outraged. After receiving hundreds of calls and emails from AARP members urging the bill be amended to address the issue, this morning the House State Affairs Committee passed the Health Freedom of Conscience bill (SB 1353), allowing all Idaho health care professionals to ignore end of life care and treatment at any time they feel it violates their "conscience."

AARP strongly opposed the legislation and urged that the "end of life" language be removed. Representative Elfreda Higgins offered an amendment to the bill to correct the issue so the bill did not carry a negative impact on individuals' living wills and advance directives - the amendment was rejected with little debate.

"This legislation tells Idahoans that as patients, they don't matter -- their living wills, advance directives or other instructions for end of life care are now set to be subject to someone else's conscience," said Jim Wordelman. "AARP commends Representative Higgins for taking a stand for older Idahoans; it's unfortunate her attempt to put patient's needs and wishes first in Idaho fell on deaf ears."

The Health Conscience bill enables any health care professional to object to and refuse to perform any end of life health service that violates his or her conscience. The bill's vague language will mean any end of life service could be denied, irregardless of the patient's living will and advance directives, which provide instructions for exactly how to address end of life care issues.

"We've heard from our members and the public across the state as have their legislators on this issues – those pleas have been ignored today," added Wordelman. "This bill places the needs of a health care professional above those of the patient, and that's the wrong direction for health care in Idaho. We hope the House recognizes this bill for what it is -- bad policy."

The bill was introduced by Senator Chuck Winder, and co-sponsored by Senators Shirley McKague, Russell Fulcher, Leland Heinrich and Representatives Judy Boyle, Raul Labrador, Thomas Loertscher, Joe Palmer, James Ruchti and Erik Simpson. Having already passed the Senate the bill now heads to the full House for a vote. AARP is urging the House to amend the bill to ensure the rights and wishes of Idahoans are not ignored.  

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

Follow us on Twitter @AARPIdaho and Facebook: AARP Idaho


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