Idaho Legislature Considering Dangerous Futile Care Bill Putting Patients at Risk

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 10, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Idaho Legislature Considering Dangerous Futile Care Bill Putting Patients at Risk

by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 10
, 2009

Boise, ID ( — The Idaho legislature is considering a dangerous futile care bill that could put elderly, disabled and terminally ill patients at risk. The legislation is similar to a Texas law that has concerned pro-life advocates because it can easily lead to revoking lifesaving medical treatment and euthanasia.

The Idaho Senate has approved the bill, S 1114, and bioethics watchdog and attorney Wesley J. Smith is very concerned about it moving further.

Smith says the bill "is so bad it permits doctors who want to refuse wanted treatment to violate a patient’s written advance directive."

The bill essentially gives the family members of a patient who can’t make his or her own medical decisions just 15 days to find a new health facility that will provide appropriate care when the current facility refuses to provide needed medical treatment.

With doctors increasingly giving up on patients they consider too far gone, that presents a host of problems for family to make sure their loved ones receive care before a feeding tube is removed or a ventilator shut off.

Smith says the bill is plagued with undefined terms that make the process even more difficult.

"So what precisely is care deemed medically futile or inappropriate? The term isn’t defined precisely, meaning it is what the doctors or ethics committees say it is," he says.

The bill authorizes guardians to refuse or withhold life-sustaining treatment if "the respondent is in a persistent vegetative state, the provision of such treatment would merely prolong dying, or the provision of such treatment would be virtually futile in terms of the survival of the respondent, and the treatment itself under such circumstances would be inhumane."

"This idea of ‘prolonging the dying’ used to be called extending life," Smith responds. "If that is what the patient wants, it is the quintessential purpose of medicine."

"If this section of the bill is found to apply to the futile care portion of the proposal, imagine the possibilities to force the most weak and vulnerable out of the lifeboat. Duty to die–here we come," Smith adds.

Smith explains that other sections of the bill contain extremely objectionable clauses that show the intent to create a duty to die for the most infirm and expensive for whom to care.

He says the bill creates a situation where "the doctor has the right to just say no [to medical care] based on his or her own biases regarding the ‘quality’ of a patient’s life."

"Doctors should not have the right to decide whose life is worth living," he concludes.

Related web sites:
Idaho Legislature –
Idaho Right to Life –

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