(Host) The Vermont Senate has given its strong approval to legislation that makes it easier for Vermonters to outline the kind of medical care they want to receive in the event that they become incapacitated. The bill streamlines the process that’s used to put advanced medical directives in place.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:
(Kinzel) There’s been a lot of attention focused on this bill following the controversial case of Terri Schiavo, a person whose medical care became a national issue because she didn’t have a written directive in place.
Windham Senator, Jeannette White, says this new bill is needed because Vermont was given a grade of “F” in a 2002 national study that looked at state laws governing advanced directives.
The advanced directive allows a person to specify the kinds of medical care they want to receive in the event that they become incapacitated. It calls on the individual to designate another person as their agent. The primary job of the agent is to work with the medical community to make sure that the instructions in the advanced directive are carried out.
The bill streamlines the administrative process for directives and it creates a state registry where advanced directives can be stored and reviewed in the event that an agent cannot be found in a timely manner. White says the bill address issues surrounding death and life.
(White) “It’s important to remember that advanced directives concern health care decisions. We often think of this only as an issue of death or end of life. We think of it as something that addresses what we do not want to keep us alive. However in fact it addresses life as well. It relays our desires around care that we want, as well as what we don’t want.”
(Kinzel) White says one of the key parts of the bill is an effort to define the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved in this process.
(White) “There are three main themes that run through this bill – autonomy, flexibility and accountability. Autonomy for the person who wants his decisions known, flexibility in what the person can direct and accountability of those who need to carry out the person’s wishes. In order to address all these concerns it is important to clarify the responsibilities of each of those involved.”
(Kinzel) A similar bill has already been passed by the House – because there are some differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation, a conference committee may be needed to work out these differences.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.