January 27, 2006
CURRAN TO PUSH FOR IMPROVED LIVING WILL FORM
J. Joseph Curran, Jr., today announced that he would ask the
General Assembly to change Maryland’s suggested
advance directive form to make it easier to understand and use. "Especially
in the wake of the tragic Terri Schiavo case, all of us should
take steps to plan for difficult medical decisions. Our State’s
law should help people do this," Curran said. Senate Education,
Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee Chairman Paula Hollinger
and House Health and Government Operations Committee member James
Hubbard will sponsor the bill in the ongoing legislative session.
that the Health Care Decisions Act, Maryland’s
basic law on end-of-life decision making, offer a simplified, more
user-friendly form. This form would let Marylanders select their
preferred decision maker (called a health care agent) to act for
them once they cannot make their own decisions, state their preferences
about medical interventions in dire circumstances (often called
a living will), or both. One innovative feature of the new form
is that those who state their treatment preferences in a living
will can say whether they want it to be strictly binding on their
health care agent or to be guidance that can be applied flexibly.
When the Health Care Decisions Act became law in 1993, it included
an optional set of forms, which have remained largely unchanged
since. But, Curran said, these forms are too legalistic, have some
confusing parts, and do not contain much help for people to understand
the effect of what they write.
"The forms now in the law were a step in the right direction," Curran
pointed out, "but experience teaches that we can do better." The
form in the proposed bill is the result of an extensive public
comment process over several months.
If the proposed bill passes, Curran observed, all existing advance
directives would still be valid. Also, the new form, like the current
one, would be optional. People would be free to change it or use
a different one.
an Advance Directive with family members was one of the American
Medical Association’s top resolution suggestions