Tuesday, March 5, 2013

New Hampshire Bill may lead to more dehydration deaths

Nancy Elliott, the former three term state Representative from New Hampshire, uncovered a dangerous problem with New Hampshire Senate Bill SB 170, a bill that concerns Advanced Directives and Life-Sustaining Treatment. SB 170 in fact redefines medically administered nutrition and hydration as "Life-Sustaining Treatment", which will lead to a far greater number of people being denied fluids and food when Life-Sustaining Treatment is withdrawn.

The following is a letter sent by Nancy Elliott to New Hampshire Senators. 

Nancy Elliott
I am writing to ask you to reject SB 170 concerning Advance Directives and Living Wills. I was a State Representative from 2004 to 2010 on the House Judiciary Committee and worked extensively with RSA 137 J.

This bill seeks to make substantial changes to that law. The sponsors seek to redefine medically administrated nutrition and hydration as “Life Sustaining Treatments.” There are many individuals with disabilities that live on medically administrated nutrition and hydration and by redefining it their lives could be put at risk. 

In the hospital they routinely put patients on medically administrated nutrition and hydration if they fail the swallow test. What happens if this is now classified as a “Life Sustaining Treatment,” as opposed to this persons’ method of nutrition and hydration. Will insurance companies refuse to pay for nutrition and hydration for those in need because it is now a new category of something intrusive.

This change removes “choice” for NH residents. Our law states that one must use the form provided in statute. In other words, you may not use another form of your choice. Therefore residents are limited to what is in our form. With this proposed change a patient must chose all or nothing. In other words you may not chose to not have very invasive “life extending measures” yet still be given an IV to keep your tongue from sticking to the top of your mouth and your lips to crack while you are being dehydrated to death. As our law already allows a person that wishes to not receive “medically administrated nutrition and hydration” to have that option by just checking the specific box those who’s choice is being taken away are the ones that do not want intrusion yet want to be comfortable with nutrition and hydration.

This change is also a bait and switch for the citizens of NH. Nowhere on the form or instruction page given to the individual, is there a mention that “medically administrated nutrition or hydration” are now “Life Sustaining Treatments.” Most people think of that, as extreme measures such as machines. These people will not be looking up 137 J to see what the definition is. They might even be signing these forms in Nursing Homes or Hospitals without a lawyer present to tell them exactly what rights they are giving up. (As a matter of fact every time you go to the hospital now they try to get you to sign an Advance Directive and Living Will.) When a patient realizes that they will not be hydrated it may be too late if they are determined to be mentally incapacitated as they cannot change the document. Not even their Health Care Agent can override what is in the Advanced Directive.

Please reject HB170 and give “choice” to our citizens and our community of people with disabilities and keep our Advance Directives from giving something other than the signer intended.

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