Feb. 17, 2018 — Florence resident Bruce Yelle testified in Salem last week during a public hearing and work session held before an Oregon House Committee in support of House Bill (HB) 4135, which proposes a change to the procedures governing the establishment of an advance directive for an individual’s end of life action authority.
On Friday, Feb. 16, the third reading of the bill will be conducted and brought to the Oregon House soon thereafter for a vote.
State Rep. Mitch Greenlick supports the proposed changes to the current procedures in an attempt to improve the advance directive process.
“This is simply an attempt to clarify and enact the patient’s wishes by adding specific notifications to the directive that would more accurately reflect the intent of the patient,” Greenlick said.
Yelle made the trip to Salem in support of the changes, primarily because he is afflicted with a number of neuro-degenerative diseases that will eventually lead to dementia and consequently an inability to access Oregon’s Death with Dignity medications and treatments.
“I am very interested in end of life issues, so I went to the capital last Wednesday and had a meeting with our State Rep. Caddie McKeown. She was very supportive of what we are going to be asking for in HB 4135,” Yelle said. “But she said that she had also heard from many of her constituents that were opposed to the idea of changing the law. She encouraged me to testify before the committee, because there were only a few of us that supported the changes and many that did not.”
Greenlick said there is a great deal of confusion surrounding HB 4135. He believes the bill is less intrusive than many think and is simply a means by which an afflicted and dying individual can be assured of having their end of life wishes carried out.
“HB 4135 has nothing to do with Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act. This is a misconception and it is wrong. This bill updates, on an interim basis, the advance directive law which clarifies a form,” he said.
Greenlick continued, “It simply seeks to put a committee together to modify the form currently in use to more accurately reflect the values of the patient.”
Greenlick mentioned one particular change that is suggested in the current form that would cut down on the confusion surrounding some end of life issues.
“In the current form I can name someone as my end of life caregiver and they do not need to be notified. Part of this modification would require that an individual named as an the executor of an end of life directive would need to be notified and agree to execute the patient’s desires,” Greenlick said.
The summation of HB 4135 provided on Oregon.gov states the bill would establish a committee for the purpose of adopting a form of advanced directive to be used in the state.
It also states the purpose of the bill is to modify the law by which an individual is selected to make healthcare decisions for another individual incapable of making healthcare decisions for themselves.
Yelle is supportive of the need for this particular element of HB 4135.
“I do not want to get to the point in my life — or my death, if you will — that my wishes, my desire to retain my dignity while dying, are compromised by my inability to convey my wishes. The changes proposed in this bill would address that problem,” he said.
The committee that would be created by the passage of HB 4135 would consist of one member that represents primary health care providers, one who represents hospitals, one medical ethicist, one member who represents individuals with disabilities, one from the state bar with experience in assisting consumers with end of life issues and one that represents the long-term care community, among others with related experience.
Significant opposition exists to the passage of HB 4135, primarily organized by the group Oregon Right to Life. Information on the group’s website suggests that the changes proposed in the advance directive law would, “Endanger patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s by putting vulnerable patients who may not have supportive advocates at risk of starvation or dehydration.”
Other groups in support of HB 4135, including AARP, believe the bill is a positive step in clarifying a patient’s end of life desires, as stated at last weeks hearing: “As our society ages, and more of us need to plan ahead, this update of Oregon’s Advance Directives law allows for a stronger engagement on these tough issues of when one lacks capacity to communicate. We urge you to vote yes on HB 4135.”
For more information on HB 4135, visit Oregon.gov.