Legislators return to the Oregon Capitol this week. Already some are seeking to pass a bill which would target Oregonians who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s. House Bill 4135 is scheduled for a hearing and possible work session in the House Health Care Committee at 3:00 pm on February 7th. It is believed this bill will move quickly because there are only 35 days in the 2018 regular session.
Last session a similar bill (SB 494) was introduced in the Senate by Senator Floyd Prozanski . It died in the House. The new bill, HB 4135, is chief sponsored by Speaker of the House, Tina Kotek.
“Supporters of this bill are touting it as a ‘fix,’ but the only fixing that is happening is fixing it so vulnerable Oregonians are left without protections and their right to basic care like food and water,” said ORTL Executive Director Lois Anderson. “One wonders what the true motivations are for this legislation.”
HB 4135 is purported to just be a bill that makes technical changes to the current statutory advance directive form found in ORS 127.531. However, over the last 25 years Oregonians at the end-of-life stage have been protected by the current advance directive and removing it from statute has legal consequences.
“The advance directive was put into Oregon statute back in 1993. I was then a state senator when a very well vetted bill was thoroughly discussed and passed. I worked hard to ensure the advance directive was in statute. If it were to be removed from statute, I fear the legal protections we carefully placed there could be jeopardized, potentially harming end of life decisions for vulnerable patients,” stated Representative Bill Kennemer (R- HD 39).
Under current Oregon law, a healthcare representative does not have the authority to make a life ending decision for an incapable person unless the representative has been given authority to do so, or the incapable person is in one of four end of life situations defined in statute.
If HB 4135 is passed a person who appoints a healthcare representative, but makes no decisions regarding end of life care, would be granting his or her healthcare representative the power to make a life ending decision for the principal even when the principal is not in one of the four statutorily defined end of life situations, and even if this is not the will of the principal.