To: House Human Services Committee
From: Christopher T. Dodson, Executive Director
Subject: Senate Bill 2212 (Health Care Directives)
Date: March 14, 2007
The North Dakota Catholic Conference supports Senate Bill 2212.
The revisions made by the last Legislative Assembly to the state’s laws on advance directives simplified the legislative framework and created new opportunities to educate and encourage the use of health care directives. Senate Bill 2212 would take us another step in that direction.
One part of the old law not revised in 2005 was a requirement applicable only when a person is a resident or patient of a nursing home or hospital and if that person appoints a health care agent. In those cases: (1) the person must receive an additional explanation about the appointment from a designated individual, and (2) the facility or person must complete additional paperwork verifying that the explanation was given.
During the last two years, I conducted many workshops on health care directives, for both religious and secular groups. Participants - especially social workers and employees of health care facilities - repeatedly described the additional requirements as an unnecessary step for someone appointing a health care agent.
Senate Bill 2212 would repeal that requirement. The law already requires a person to be competent in order for he or she to execute a health care directive. There is no compelling reason to treat a person as less competent – and therefore needing additional explanations – merely because the person is inside a health care facility.
Moreover, the additional requirement exists only when the person in the health care facility appoints an agent. It does not exist if the person executed a health care directive that contained only written instructions. It makes no sense to treat the person appointing a health care agent as less competent than the person who provides just written instructions. It especially makes no sense in light of the legislature’s intent to encourage the appointment of health care agents wherever possible.
We urge a Do Pass recommendation on Senate Bill 2212.