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For Immediate Release
January 27, 2006
Media Contact:
Kevin Enright 410-576-6357


Attorney General 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.

Curran proposes 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.

***Developing an Advance Directive with family members was one of the American Medical Association’s top resolution suggestions for 2006.***


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