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Eye On Boise

Wed., Feb. 23, 2011, 9 a.m.

AARP: ‘We don’t view this as progress’

Here's what the Idaho AARP thinks of the new narrow conscience law amendment bill, HB 187: "We don't view this as progress," said David Irwin, Idaho AARP spokesman. "It still allows all health care professionals in Idaho to have a conscience objection to somebody's living will or advanced directive, and those are legal documents. ... We think it can be clearer, and we think it can be done better."

Under Idaho's Natural Death Act, people can file legal living wills or advanced care directives to specify which "artificial life-sustaining procedures" should be used, or not used, when they're dying. The state's conscience law, passed last year, lets any health care provider refuse to provide any end-of-life treatment that violates the provider's conscience.

Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Meridian, a co-sponsor of HB 187 and the lead sponsor of the conscience law last year, said, "The physician ought to have some say in what the treatment is, and whether it's appropriate. ... He swears an oath that he's going to keep people alive." Winder said, "There's kind of a balancing act going on here. We think it's important not only at the beginning of life, but at the end of life, that medical providers be able to exercise their conscience." He said he's been through difficult situations with family members regarding when to remove artificial life supports. Asked what a family should do if a doctor opposes the patient's and family's wishes on that question, Winder said, "Get a  different doctor."

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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