Saturday, April 16, 2011

On National Healthcare Decisions Day, MCCL urges citizens to make wishes known in advance directive

The following is an MCCL news release.

In recognition of National Healthcare Decisions Day on Apr. 16, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) is encouraging every Minnesota citizen to make their medical care wishes known in an advance directive. Minnesota's oldest and largest pro-life organization, MCCL has always advocated the use of advance care planning.

"Documenting your medical care wishes and discussing them with loved ones and care providers is essential," said MCCL Executive Director Scott Fischbach. "People have a right to direct their health care in Minnesota, even when they need someone to represent them."

MCCL has fought for this right to be recognized in Minnesota law. Legislation which could be used to justify the withdrawal not only of medical care, but also food and fluids, without the patient's consent, was proposed as early as 1986; MCCL successfully blocked it from becoming law. When such legislation was passed in 1989, MCCL successfully lobbied for inclusion of protective amendments authorizing advance directives for health care.

In 2006, a year after Terri Schindler Schiavo was starved to death by court order, MCCL supported the Starvation and Dehydration of Persons with Disabilities Prevention Act. The initiative would have established a presumption of nutrition and hydration in the absence of a health care directive or informed consent. It also would have created a website and a statewide campaign to educate the public of the importance of completing a health care directive or living will. The bill was approved by two House committees; no further action was taken.

Minnesota Statute 145C.15 (and here) requires the provision of health care, nutrition and hydration when such care, "in reasonable medical judgment, has a significant possibility of sustaining the life" of a person, unless a health care directive indicates such care is not the person's wish.

MCCL has made available the "Will to Live" health care directive, a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (DPAHC) document which empowers citizens to declare their health care wishes and to select an agent or agents to make decisions about medical care when the person is unable to do so. Unlike most living wills, the DPAHC does not require the signer to have a terminal condition. The "Will to Live" directs that the person be given food and fluids, and it creates a presumption for treatment with the opportunity to describe limited, specific exceptions, such as when the person is dying. The "Will to Live" can be downloaded from the National Right to Life website. Copies may be obtained by contacting MCCL at 612-825-6831 or

"To ensure the protection of their own lives, we urge people to complete a Will to Live as soon as possible," Fischbach added.