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HB 4135 is Law. Now What?

House Bill 4135, the advance directive bill, brought end-of-life care to the forefront of all of our minds. Its passage left many wondering what happened during the legislative session and what we can do under this new law.

When HB 4135 passed from the House into the Senate, courageous pro-life senators wanted to fix the bill. Unfortunately, because of the time constraints during the short session, their proposed fix was not considered. HB 4135 passed the Senate. It was signed by the governor on March 16.

We are proud to say that every pro-life legislator knew the consequences this bill would have on people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. They received thousands of calls and emails from concerned advocates. They understood this bill would change the legal authority a health care representative has. Because of your advocacy efforts, every pro-life legislator voted no.

As devastating as this loss was, there are still ways we can limit or even reverse the effects of this bill. HB 4135 requires that the new committee that proposes an updated advance directive form submit it to the legislature for a vote. This means we have another chance at influencing legislators on how to vote.

The greatest way we can influence the process is by voting pro-life candidates into office. This is our best opportunity to reverse this new law. Although our pro-life legislators are strong, we need more of them. This is how we turn the tide and pass pro-life bills in our state.

If you are concerned about the passage of 4135, there are still some ways individuals can protect themselves and their loved ones.

The greatest way we can influence the process is by voting pro-life candidates into office. This is our best opportunity to reverse this new law. Although our pro-life legislators are strong, we need more of them.

First, it is important to know that if you have filled out an advance directive in the past, it is still valid and will have the proper legal protections until June 2, 2018. After June 2, your previous advance directive will not have the same protections. It will be interpreted differently under the new law. After June 2, it will be important for you to make it very clear when your health care representative does not have authority to make certain health care decisions for you. If you have not limited your health care representative’s authority over your end-of-life care, now is the time to do it.

If you are filling out an advance directive again, or for the first time, sit down with your loved ones and talk through it carefully. A decision should be made about who is going to be your appointed health care representative. A health care representative should be someone you know and trust, a person who will act in your best interests and advocate to protect your rights. There may even be instances when your health care representative will need to fight for your life.

It is important to keep in mind that there can be financial and other pressures on the person(s) authorized to make health care decisions for you at a future stage in life. If or when your advance directive takes effect, it may not be interpreted with a pro-life lens. Read through each provision of the form and clearly state whether your health care representative does not have the authority to make that particular medical decision. You may want to write additional information beyond the options specified on the form.

We are developing more specific materials to help Oregonians make advance care planning decisions. If you have specific legal questions, see a licensed attorney who can assist you with your advance directive.

It is difficult to think through end-of-life issues with the ones you love. To protect yourself and them as well as possible, think and talk through end-of-life medical decisions now to avoid the dangers under the new law.

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