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Dublin: 12 °C Tuesday 25 June, 2019

Bill legislating for 'living wills' to be introduced to Dáil

Proposal concerns competent people making decisions about medical treatment if they become incapacitated and can’t communicate their wishes.

Image: tahitianlime via Creative Commons

LEGISLATION CONCERNING ‘living wills’ is to be introduced to the Dáil later today by Fine Gael TD Liam Twomey.

The Advanced Healthcare Decisions Bill concerns a person’s wishes for the medical treatment they should receive if they are terminally ill or incapacitated and can no longer communicate their views.

Twomey says that deciding on the best course of action or treatment for a loved one is a source of serious stress and of guilt for the family members of incapacitated persons, particularly if they are being given divergent medical opinions on that treatment.

“As a young junior doctor, I recall the different approaches adopted by consultants who were treating terminally ill or elderly patients, with some being very quick to put a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) sign over a patient’s bed, while others would go the full mile in prolonging life,” he said.

“If enacted into law, this Bill would remove the God-like ability of the doctor to decide what is the best course of action to take, giving an opportunity to the patient to clearly state whether or not they would like their life to be spared to the nth degree, or not.”

Twomey says that the proposed legislation “is in keeping with” the Law Reform Commission’s 2008 consultation paper on advanced care directives as well as the Irish Hospice Foundation’s Forum on End of Life in Ireland report. The deputy says that by ignoring end of life issues, the topic remains taboo and people are allowing others to make the critical decisions about their end of life care.

If enacted, the Advance Healthcare Decisions Bill would:

provide for the making of medical treatment decisions in advance by competent persons with the intention of those decisions subsequently providing for the withholding of care at a time when the person loses competence to make treatment decisions; to amend the Powers of Attorney Act 1996 to allow for attorneys under that act to take healthcare treatment decisions; and to provide for connected matters.

The Bill is due to be debated in the Dáil later today.

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