by Kat Thornton
The controversial Freedom of Conscience Bill has a new opponent: the AARP.
The national seniors organization showed up at the State Capitol this afternoon to deliver its message that the bill needs to be amended to address concerns about end-of-life care and advanced medical directives.
“You can’t go interview everyone you might possibly come into contact with in a hospital or at home in that [end-of-life care] situation,” said Lynn Young, AARP member. “And you don’t get to choose people who get to treat you. So what I have to hope is that they honor my legal request on how I want to be treated, and I don’t feel confident that they will with that piece of information in this bill.”
SB-1353—the Freedom of Conscience for Health Care Professionals, passed in July 2010—allows medical professionals to deny end-of-life care or advanced directives dictated by patients based on the health-care workers' own moral objections. This is the same bill that has earned the ire of many in the public for also allowing health-care providers to refuse to fill prescriptions based on their own morals.
"I don't think health-care professionals ought to be put in the place where they're in charge of making those decisions one way or another," said Iona Republican Rep. Thomas Loertscher, the original sponsor of the bill.
AARP argues that the bill stifles the rights of patients and their families, who often create detailed plans for care, including living wills and other tools. The organization believes that the bill puts the rights of medical professionals above those of patients and their families.
Several Idaho legislators stood up in support of AARP's efforts to revise the law, including Reps. Leon Smith (R-Twin Falls), Phyllis King (D-Boise), Tom Trail (R-Moscow) and Elfreda Higgins (D-Garden City). They spoke about their repeated efforts to enact a hearing to change the contents of the bill, addressing the elimination of the refusal of end-of-life-care and advance directives.
AARP members presented Loertscher with a stack of 500 letters supporting the effort to fix the bill.
"This is not about the policy, it's about who makes the decision," Loertscher said about protecting the rights of health-care workers.