Today's News & Views
March 10, 2009
Fast-Moving Idaho Bill Would Allow Hospitals to
Deny Life-Saving Treatment AGAINST THE WILL of Patients and Families
Part One of Two
Editor's note. Be sure also to post this TN&V on your social networking pages by going to www.nrlc.org/News_and_views/Mar09/nv031009.html and clicking on the "Share" button
A bill that would effectively create a "duty to die" has unanimously passed the Idaho Senate and is scheduled for a House committee hearing this Thursday.
While "right-to-die" advocates used to say they were defending the rights of patients and families to make medical treatment choices, in recent years the claim has been that doctors and hospitals need not provide life-saving medical treatment, food, or fluids chosen by patients and their families if the health care providers, imposing their own values, think the patients' disabilities make their "quality of life" inadequate.
As the Powell Center report on NRLC's website, "Will Your Advance Directive Be Followed" [www.nrlc.org/euthanasia/AdvancedDirectives/ReportRevised2007.pdf] documents, this approach is hidden under the euphemisms that providers should be able to deny "medically inappropriate" or "futile" treatment--terms carefully left undefined, but deadly in practice.
Now Idaho's Senate Bill 1114 would establish a procedure, adapted from a controversial Texas law, under which patients or their family members would be given only 24 hours notice before having to appear before a facility-appointed "ethics committee."
After hearing from them and the doctors who advocate the patient's death, the ethics committee would have authority to decide against life-preserving treatment.
In that case, treatment would be provided for up to 15 days while transfer to a willing provider was sought. While the patient or family could seek a court-ordered extension, it would be granted only if they could prove a "reasonable probability" of finding a willing provider within the extension period. There could be no appeal of the decision to deny treatment itself.
Although the option to transfer may seem to help the patient, experience in Texas has shown that once one institution has refused to treat, it is normally extremely difficult to find other facilities willing to buck "medical solidarity," or conduct a serious independent review of the facts and accept transfer.
Moreover, Idaho facilities would NOT EVEN BE REQUIRED TO USE THE ETHICS COMMITTEE/TRANSFER procedure. The bill specifically makes it "voluntary" for each facility and states,
"Nothing in this chapter shall require a health care facility to establish or utilize an ethics committee, nor shall this chapter require a health care provider or surrogate decision maker to submit a matter to the ethics committee before withdrawing or withholding health care to a patient."
In short, the bill completely overrides patient and family rights, instead giving essentially absolute immunity to health care providers who involuntarily deny life-saving treatment, food and fluids so as to bring about the deaths of those patients they in their sole judgment consider too disabled to be worth saving.
Wesley Smith has an excellent expose of this scary legislation on his blog at www.wesleyjsmith.com/blog/2009/03/duty-to-die-in-idaho-legislature-close.html
Whether involuntary euthanasia comes to Idaho may well depend on how many of the state's citizens contact their representatives to impress on them how essential it is to oppose SB 1114 in its current form.