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Idaho Passes Bill to Put 'Conscience' Between Patients & End of Life Rights

Legislation Would Allow All Health Care Professionals to Ignore Living Wills & Advance Directives for End of Life Care

BOISE, Idaho, March 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Idahoans may soon learn someone else's "conscience" at the worst possible time.  Today, after two days of heated debate, the Idaho House passed the Freedom of Conscience bill (SB 1353), which allows all health care professionals, including dieticians, nurses and pharmacists, to walk away from any end-of-life care that violates their conscience.

AARP strongly opposed the bill, stating that it could leave patient's needs, rights and wishes out in the cold, urging the "end of life" language be removed.  Thousands of calls and emails from AARP members in opposition to the bill flooded legislators' offices over the last several days.  A move to amend the bill to correct the issue was rejected yesterday.

"Today, the Idaho House said it's all right for health care professionals to ignore the wishes and instructions of their patients - and that's a dangerous direction for health care in our state," said Jim Wordelman, State Director for AARP in Idaho.  "AARP members across Idaho are outraged by this bill and its implications on their living wills, advance directives and end of life care."

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 and ignored, regardless of the patient's living will and advance directives, which provide instructions for exactly how to address end of life care issues.

"This bill will leave patients struggling, unsure of what care they'll get when it comes to their end of life issues," added Wordelman.  "A deathbed is the wrong place to learn what violates someone else's conscience and what doesn't."

The legislation 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.  AARP is encouraging its members to call the Governor tell him to remove the end of life language from the bill.

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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