2018 Virginia General Assembly
February 12, 2018
The legislature is considering 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 (Stolle) and SB 222 (Edwards) 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 contrary to the patient’s wishes, and both bills require that the patient receive care to minimize pain.
The House bill – HB 226 (Stolle) – eliminates a proposal to give doctors immunity from civil or criminal suit so long as the doctor complies with the procedures. HB 226 has been approved by the House Committee on Courts of Justice and but not yet approved by the full House.
The Senate version – SB 222 (Edwards) – contains a presumption that the doctor has complied with the required standard of care and would not be subject to civil or criminal liability for terminating life-sustaining treatment. SB 226 (Stanley, Jr.) has been approved by the full Senate and referred to the House Committee on Health, Welfare, and Institutions.
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