2018 Virginia General Assembly
February 27, 2018
The 2018 General Assembly Session is scheduled to adjourn on Saturday, March 10th. As a result, the various committees are completing their work on remaining bills this week.
The legislature considered two measures that address terminating life sustaining treatment when a doctor believes such treatment is unethical or inappropriate. Under current law in Virginia, if a doctor thinks that continuing to provide treatment is inappropriate or unethical, the doctor has 14 days to try to find another professional to provide the desired care. Current Virginia law does not describe what happens if no other doctor can be found.
HB 226 and SB 222 create a process that must be followed before a doctor can terminate care under those circumstances. Both bills require a second opinion, access to an interdisciplinary review committee (sometimes known as an ethics committee), and written notice to the patient or the patient’s decision maker. Both bills have now been amended to include the right for court review. Both bills require that artificial nutrition and hydration be provided unless it would be contrary to the patient’s wishes, and both bills require that the patient receive care to minimize pain.
Importantly, both bills make it clear that compliance with the process established in the new law does not create any presumption of having met the standard of care required by Virginia Code under malpractice review. Both bills have eliminated a proposal to give doctors immunity from civil or criminal suit, a proposal which had given many in the disability community great concern.
The House bill, HB 226 (Stolle) has been approved by the full House of Delegates and by the full Senate.
The Senate version, SB 222 (Edwards), was approved by the full Senate and by House Health, Welfare and Institutions and by a subcommittee of House Courts of Justice. The bill was on the agenda for the full Courts of Justice committee on Friday, February 22, but was not discussed that day.
The mission of the disAbility Law Center of Virginia is to advance independence, choice and self-determination; protect legal, human and civil rights; and eliminate abuse, neglect and discrimination of people with disabilities through zealous and uncompromising legal advocacy and representation. Please let us know of any legislative proposals or budget issues that you think we should be following. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1-800-552-3962 or 804-225-2042.