End-of-life care proposal wins final passage

The House of Representatives has given final passage to a proposal aimed at creating a formal process for people with terminal illnesses to discuss their end-of-life care options with a health care provider and document their choices in a medical order.

The measure, which passed the House and Senate unanimously, now heads to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who has said he supports it.

The bill would allow the state Department of Public Health to create a pilot program for “medical orders for life-sustaining treatment,” or MOLST. The program would include training for health care providers on discussing options with patients, who could then document their choices in a form that would direct medical personnel on how to respond.

Supporters of the measure say it addresses shortcomings of other methods people use to document their wishes, such as advance directives. People who work in emergency medicine say they often see dying patients whose wishes aren’t known, or families unsure what to do. Even if a patient has an advance directive, it might be vague or unclear about whether it’s still in effect, they say.

People with disabilities opposed a previous version of the proposal but endorsed this year's bill because they said it included important safeguards for patients.

The proposal faced opposition this year from people who warned that patients could end up being undertreated or pressured into accepting less treatment than they might want.

For more on the proposal and the debate on it, click here.

About Arielle Levin Becker

Arielle Levin Becker was a finalist in 2009 for the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists, a recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship and the third-place winner in 2013 for an in-depth piece on home caretakers from the National Association of Health Journalists. Arielle previously worked for The Hartford Courant, most recently as its health reporter. She also has covered education and municipal beats for The Courant and for the Home News Tribune of East Brunswick, N.J. She is a 2004 graduate of Yale University. E-mail her at alevinbecker@ctmirror.org.