Should your drinking buddy be able to tell a doctor there's a DNR order in place?

Chet Brokaw of the Associated Press is writing in the Rapid City Journal this morning that Senator Jean Hunhoff is priming legislation, specifically SB 74 and SB 75, which allow "close friends" to determine whether life support should be shut off or not in the case of incapacitated people.
SB74 would provide that if no relative is available, doctors could consult a patient’s close friend, defined in the bill as someone who has provided significant care, has maintained regular contact and is familiar with the patient’s activities, health and religious or moral beliefs.

The Senate Judiciary Committee also approved SB75 and SB76, which seek to clarify and simplify state laws dealing with living wills and decisions on whether to provide artificial food and water to an incapacitated patient who is terminally ill.

The three bills next go to the full Senate.

The measures’ main sponsor, Sen. Jean Hunhoff, R-Yankton, said some people face the end of life with no relatives. A close friend who has lived with the patient or been a next-door neighbor for years should be allowed to help doctors make decisions on treatments in such situations, said Hunhoff, a nurse.


Some opponents of the measures cited the case of Terry Schiavo, a Florida woman in a persistent vegetative state who ended up at the center of a legal battle over whether she should be allowed to die. Ultimately, her husband ordered her feeding tube removed, and she died.

Sen. Dennis Schmidt, R-Rapid City, voted against all three measures. He said the Legislature should be cautious about end-of-life issues.

“We’re not putting dogs to sleep. These are human beings,” Schmidt said.
Read it all here. Wow. A few legislators think it's ok to place a non-relative on equal footing with family members. Think about this - if this were the "Cheers," TV show, Sam would get to decide if it was OK to put Norm to sleep:
(8) "Close friend," any adult who has provided significant care and exhibited concern for the patient, and has maintained regular contact with the patient so as to be familiar with the patient's activities, health, and religious or moral beliefs .

Section 2. That § 34-12C-3 be amended to read as follows:

34-12C-3. In the absence of a durable power of attorney for health care or the appointment of a guardian of the person, or if neither the attorney in fact nor guardian is available to consent, a health care decision for an incapacitated person may be made by the following members of the incapacitated person's family who are available to consent, in the order stated:

(1) The spouse, if not legally separated;
(2) An adult child;
(3) A parent;
(4) An adult sibling;
(5) A grandparent or an adult grandchild;
(6) An adult aunt or uncle , adult cousin, or an adult niece or nephew ;
(7) Close friend .
Read that here. Since that's the case, instead of preventing Terry Schaivo situations, it looks as if it could cause them, since your neighbor would have a legal basis to now intervene. And for that matter, the definition of close friend is also pretty darn broad. Looking at it, it could be a doctor or nurse. Or your bartender.

I'm actually kind of resentful that the legislature would presume that it's ok to let someone's poker buddy make a life and death decision for me.


Anonymous said…
Many people will argue they don't want any legislation that interfers with life. They say people shouldn't play God.

If someone needs to be on a ventilator, feeding tube or some other machine to sustain life, aren't the doctors and family members the ones playing God? If a person is in that serious a condition, isn't that God's way of telling us he wants that person in Heaven? Who are we to prolong that' person's life? Isn't that just selfishnes on our part?

And if going to Heaven is what most of us strive for, why is it such a bad thing for someone to want a loved one who is terminally ill to go there?

It begs the question "Do we or don't we believe in God and Heaven?".
Anonymous said…
Right now if there is no family, I think an ethics committee at the hopsital decides, I think anyway. If this law was put in place where it specified all relatives first as listed in the article, and in the absence of any such relatives, if there was a close friend who had agreed in writing beforehand to act as such, he/she could. If not, it is back to the doctor and/or hospital.
Anonymous said…
PP – you have to read the bill

“the following members of the incapacitated person's family who are available to consent, in the order stated”

Sam could only make the decision for Norm if Norm had no family at all. This is a great bill for people who either have no family or don’t trust their family to make these decisions.
Anonymous said…
This about personal planning and responsibility. The government shouldn't have to tell us about this. Get your will or living will in order. Put something in writing, somewhere. Adjust it as your life circumstances/relationships change. I know, because I am the poster child for this sort of thing. I'm single, no kids, one parent has passed away and the other is in ill health. I know what I want, and it is in writing.
Anonymous said…
Hopefully, the State stays out of this one. Either get your Living Will in order or let the Doctors decide. We have had enough intrustion...too much government into our lives.
Anonymous said…
Anon 8:29:
It is the human selfishness that wants to prolong life. It is when truly seeing the suffering that we can then let go.
I know I have been there more than once with a loved one.
Believe me those who cling and hang on it is very ugly what some people/ill have to go through.
Even the so called pulling of the plug it is still not pleasant for the patient nor the family. Sometimes it just takes time.
I believe if there are DNR papers signed and proved to a Doctor then wishes should be met.
Anonymous said…
Let's face it people there are times when something happens and no will, no DNR papers are signed or known about and this places all people family, firends and the medical profession in a bad spot. I do believe that if the doctors seems this is the best action i "think" they have to get a judges order to terminate life support that has been placed. THough i am not sure.
Anonymous said…
Me again Anon 8:29 a few comments to share.

Just for the record, I am now in this spot again. It was 2 years ago i went through this and here i am again, a parent, DNR papers were signed a few years ago, the end is not quite there, but it will happen within a few months. I am very sad, but i know what is ahead it will not be pleasant for my parent, me or my family.

It is my parent's wishes and we have to live with it because it is what they want. I understand. I also know it will not get better only worse, we just hope and pray that it will end quickly and peaceful. This all started less than a year ago.

I also believe there are times when the medical profession goes to far trying to extend life. It is their passion, their oath, their calling. But there is a time when enough is enough and then sometimes i don't think they should have started.

It seems to me over the years and reading some of the cases/stories people will hold for a gleamer of hope or a sign or a new technique or medicine. It is within our selfishness we sometimes hold on for love when we need to let go. We must remember it is for the ill person not us, that is the hard part.
I may have went off this are of topic tho some of this fits in.
Health Care Provider said…
1. Many people are put on life support--get better--get off of it and go on with their lives.

2. Most doctors live with the understanding that dead or incapacitated people don't sue you--it is the living ones who do that! Therefore what family members want is often more important than what the pts. would want.

3. If you are a doctor and you call it wrong and leave someone on life support because the family isn't ready to let go --and they get BETTER and go home--they usually forgive you!

4. It is often interesting to note that as long as someone (the taxpayers) is paying the bills everyone is fine with lots of life support and time-- if the money runs out then the DNR orders seem to appear quickly.

5 A close friend is much more qualified to help in this kind of medical decision than a hospital ethic committee.

6. It is proven that the further away the relationship --ie cousin, Aunt, Uncle--the greater the chance that organ donation will be approved. It does stand to reason that a distant relative might have less emotional involvement than a close friend.
Tru Major said…
Just being a family member does not make you a compassionate and competent judge of when to turn off life-support. The doctor, however, stands between the relative and the patient. It is the doctor that makes the recommendation in the first instance. I would trust a close friend, working closely with my doctor.
Anonymous said…
to 11:41 from 8:29 - There's nothing I can write to ease what you have, and are about, to go through. Your strength and courage have inspired me. Warm wishes to you and your loved ones. There is a God and I have to believe he is watching over your family.

Popular posts from this blog

Why should we be surprised?

That didn't take long