After bills are approved by the legislature, they then go to the Governor for review. He can sign the bill, suggest changes, or veto the bill. If the bill was completed more than ten days before the end of session, the Governor has ten days for his review. If the bill is completed near the end of session, the Governor has 30 days to complete the review.
The legislature considered two measures that address terminating life-sustaining treatment when a doctor believes such treatment is unethical or inappropriate. The House version of the bill was completed more than ten days before the end of session, but the Senate version was completed nearer the end of the session. The Governor has approved the House version already. Although he has not acted on the Senate version yet, it is identical to the House version of the bill.
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) was approved by the Governor on March 19th. The identical Senate version has not yet been approved, but it is unlikely that the outcome will be any different.
dLCV was an active member of the work group that negotiated complicated issues in the proposed legislation. We expressed concerns to the legislature about the bill in its original form, but were neutral about the bill after the legislature made several important changes to the proposal.
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 email@example.com or by calling 1-800-552-3962 or 804-225-2042.