End of life preparations aren’t exactly embraced by most people but state Sen. Peggy Lehner is hoping her bill will prompt more discussions between patients and doctors. The legislation, however, faces opposition from right to life groups who say the changes are a slippery slope toward euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Lehner, who has served on the Ohio Ethics Commission and the board of Dayton Right to Life, said that isn’t the case.
Lehner said she began working on a bill seven years ago that will provide a clear, voluntary path for doctors and patients to discuss end of life plans and directives.
Senate Bill 165, which is scheduled for another hearing Wednesday, would authorize medical providers to issue “Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment” to give instructions on whether the patient would want to be hospitalized, given comfort care or life-sustaining treatments or receive CPR. The orders must be done with patient consent and could be revoked.
After recent revisions, Ohio Right to Life is now neutral on the bill but local chapters, including in Cincinnati and Cleveland, are still opposed.
Paula Westwood, executive director of the Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati, warned in an email blast that such bills “have pro-euthanasia origins and can be a prelude to assisted suicide legislation.”
Eleven years ago, Terri Schindler Schiavo, who spent 15 years with a feeding tube after a brain injury, was the subject of an international controversy. Her husband sought a court order to remove the feeding tube and she died two weeks later.
Westwood said in her email that she expects advocates for legalizing assisted suicide will soon target Ohio.
Bobby Schindler of the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network testified against Lehner’s bill, saying that such orders are “a first step toward opening the door to covert euthanasia and assisted suicide.”
Lehner’s bill has support from the medical community. Dr. William Hurtford, chief medical officer at UC Health in Cincinnati, said the bill provides mechanisms for patients to document their wishes, caregivers to honor those wishes and for doctors and patients to continue communicating about the plans.
The Ethics Consortium of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association supports the bill, saying it would allow patients to formally document specific end-of-life preferences based on conversations with their medical team.