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Controversial End of Life Bill Heads to Senate

February 21, 2018

Oregon Right to Life

House Bill 4135, if signed into law, would endanger Oregonians with dementia and Alzheimer’s, allowing their healthcare representatives to remove their access to food and water. HB 4135 passed the Oregon House Friday, 35-25, split across party lines. It has been scheduled for a public hearing and work session in the Senate Judiciary Committee, tomorrow at 8am, in hearing room 343.

Last session a similar bill (SB 494) was introduced in the Senate by Senator Floyd Prozanski. It died in the House. The new bill, HB 4135, is chief sponsored by Speaker of the House Tina Kotek.

“It’s disappointing that House Democrats passed a bill that has obvious and significant problems,” says Lois Anderson, ORTL executive director. “What limited testimony was allowed in the House Health Care Committee hearing revealed the process has been rushed and will lead to unintended consequences that endanger vulnerable Oregonians.”

Bill Harris Testifies for HB 4135; Screenshot from Committee Recording

Testimony also displayed the somewhat more nefarious motives of the bill’s supporters. Bill Harris went to court in order to starve his wife who had dementia. He testified that he supports HB 4135 because he was unable to starve his wife under current law. He stated that this bill is only the “first step” in a “nasty” and “ugly” process.

HB 4135 is purported to just be a bill that makes technical changes to the current statutory advance directive form found in ORS 127.531. However, over the last 25 years, Oregonians at the end-of-life stage have been protected by the current advance directive. Removing it from statute has legal consequences.

If HB 4135 is passed a person who appoints a healthcare representative, but makes no decisions regarding end of life care, would be granting his or her healthcare representative the power to make a life ending decision for the principal. They would have the power to remove access to food and water, even when the principal is not in one of the four statutorily defined end of life situations, and even if this is not the will of the principal.

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