Summer 2004

Section Proposes ABA Policy on Healthcare Decisionmaking

At the 2004 ABA Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Ga., the ABA House of Delegates will consider a Section-sponsored Report with Recommendation addressing the rights of patients to receive medical information to make fully informed decisions about the healthcare they receive.

The Recommendation opposes governmental actions and policies that interfere with the right of patients to receive from healthcare professionals and entities, all relevant and medically accurate information necessary to make their own healthcare decisions and that interferes with the ability of patients to access, either directly or through referral, medically appropriate care.

According to the accompanying report, the proliferation of broad-based "refusal clauses" at the state and federal levels, along with changes in health care delivery systems, have significantly restricted patients' access to information regarding medical treatment alternatives and seriously curtailed their access to medically appropriate care.

The report further explains that because informed consent is at the core of an individual's right to make his or her own decisions about medically appropriate health care, all health care providers must offer accurate, unbiased and timely information about treatment options, and alternative treatments must be reasonably accessible. The proposed resolution builds upon existing ABA policy, including Section-sponsored policy from 1993 that opposes suppression of speech of government grantees. The full text of the Report with Recommendation can be found on the Section website at www.abanet.org/irr.

The Report with Recommendation was drafted by the Section's Health Law and Bioethics Committee.

The Section also is co-sponsoring two other recommendations. The first, submitted by the Health Law Section, urges ABA members and lawyers to improve their knowledge of public health law in the wake of new public health threats. The second, submitted by the Section of Family Law, supports law and public policy that opposes or prohibits reproductive cloning.

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