Governor signs 'five wishes' bill

Measure consolidates end-of-life provisions

Posted: Sunday, June 27, 2004

Gov. Frank Murkowski signed a bill Friday that clarifies health care decisions laws for those who are dying.

The bill, known as the Health Care Decisions Act or the "five wishes bill," was introduced by Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch, R-Juneau. The bill, which was inspired by a public television series in 2000 on dying by Bill Moyers, was first introduced in 2001 by former Juneau lawmaker Bill Hudson.

The bill consolidates end-of-life provisions such as advance health care directives, mental health treatment, organ donation, do-not-resuscitate orders and durable power-of-attorney laws into one place in statute.

The bill also establishes the "five wishes" approach to end-of-life health care.

The five wishes include:

• Who will make health care decisions for you.

• What kind of medical treatment you will receive.

• How comfortable you want to be.

• How you want to be treated.

• What you want your loved ones to know.

The five wishes legislation has been adopted in 37 other states, according to Weyhrauch.

"The end-of-life health care bill will help clarify end-of-life health care decisions for those of us who have loved ones in that situation," Weyhrauch said. "One thing that this Legislature has done is recognize that unconditional love for those who are dying is one of the most important things we can give to those in life as well as death."

Marie Darlin of the senior citizens organization AARP, said it would help streamline the process for those who are dying.

"I think the fact that it put into one bill everything that's related to end-of-life issues, and that's what we started out to do to begin with, and that's what it finally did, is to put all the different statutes that relate to end-of-life issues in one place," she said.

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