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U.S. News Archive
October 01 - October 03, 1999

 

 

 
 

 

This page contains news for the period Friday, October 01, 1999 through Sunday, October 03, 1999.

 

 

 

 

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Saturday, October 2, 1999

California Governor signs one domestic partner bill, vetoes another

The office of California Governor Gray Davis issued a press release today announcing the actions he has taken on two domestic partner bills passed by the legislature. One measure, AB 26, is limited to same-sex couples of any age and to heterosexual couples if both parties are over the age of 62. The other bill, SB 75, would have applied to all unmarried couples regardless of gender or age.

The following excerpts from the press release pertain to these two bills. Other portions of the press release pertaining to other unrelated bills have been omitted.

OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR

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L99:181 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 2, 1999

GOVERNOR DAVIS SIGNS LEGISLATION TO PROTECT CALIFORNIANS FROM DISCRIMINATION

SACRAMENTO -- Governor Gray Davis today signed historic legislation that seeks to protect Californians from discrimination based on sexual orientation. The bills signed by Governor Davis are:

AB 26 by Assemblywoman Carole Migden (D-San Francisco). This bill establishes a statewide registry for domestic partnerships and provides hospital visitation rights and health benefits to the domestic partners of state employees. AB 26 defines domestic partners as same sex couples and heterosexual couples age 62 or older that meet certain requirements of financial responsibility.

The governor today also vetoed SB 75 by Senator Kevin Murray (D-Los Angeles) calling the measure overly broad."

click on here for full text of AB 26

click on here for full text of SB 75

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VETO MESSAGE

The veto message, which was attached to the press release, says:

October 2, 1999

To the Members of the Senate:

I am returning Senate Bill 75 without my signature because it is overly broad.

However, I have signed Assembly Bill 26, which under specified conditions will allow domestic partners to formalize their relationships through registration with the Secretary of State, allow medical benefits to be extended to domestic partners of state employees, and provide hospital visitation for domestic partners.

Sincerely,

GRAY DAVIS

 

Friday, October 1, 1999

Changes to Florida law governing living wills take effect today

An article published today in the Marco Island News discusses a new law on living wills that goes into effect today in Florida.

Although living wills and other advanced life directives can make the final days of patients and their families more tranquil, the article reports that fewer than one in five affected Floridians have planned ahead for such an important event.

It says that advocates for the elderly are hoping that the changes in law which take effect today and a pilot program aimed at getting employers involved will change all that by shedding light and disseminating information on what to many will be the last important decision of their lives.

Aging with Dignity Founder Jim Towey announced last week that Gov. Jeb Bush and other state agency heads will begin a pilot program to provide their employees with the opportunity to complete "Five Wishes," an easy-to-use advanced-care directive, or living will, developed by Towey's organization two years ago.

"I am very pleased with the work that the Aging with Dignity organization is doing to help Florida families deal with unplanned crises and illnesses of their loved ones," Gov. Jeb Bush wrote in support of the program. "It's no longer enough for employers to speak of 'end-game' issues just in terms of retirement plans and life insurance options."

The news story says that Florida has been on the leading edge on end-of-life issues for years. Because of its large population of seniors, state legislators have been pressed to accommodate elder constituents who have long been calling for more flexibility and control over advanced care planning.

The new changes to Florida law will expand the conditions under which living wills can function and clarify language as to what constitutes life-prolonging care. With such changes being made, Towey told reporters that now is an excellent time for Floridians of all ages to consider drawing up or revising their living wills.

"With the new law taking effect, and because nearly three out of four Florida deaths take place in a hospital or nursing home, the importance of advanced care planning has never been greater," Towey told the newspaper.

A valid living will can guide children or siblings who may have disagreements on a course of action, Towey said. When two caregivers disagree, the patient's own preferences can alleviate a lot of frustration and bitterness.

Pain management is another area a living will can handle. The article reports that without proper authorization, some medical facilities are reluctant to increase pain relief medication to adequately ease suffering for fear that the medication may have side effects.

Patients can also specify if they want tube feeding and ventilation to keep them alive or whether they want such assistance ended. Tube feeding and ventilation are often the last medical procedures to be discontinued.

The story says that beginning today, changes in Florida law will clear up some of the ambiguity surrounding current law regulating end-of-life decisions. Specifically, lawmakers expanded the scope of living wills to patients not only in terminal condition or persistent vegetative states, but to persons suffering from "end-stage condition," when the patient is incapacitated and completely dependent physically. Medical treatment in such situations would be ineffective.

The new law also would include food and water as life-prolonging procedures and therefore subject to living wills. Currently, there is no universal agreement as to whether food and water can be withheld.

"We're trying to alleviate ambiguities regarding end-of-life care," said state Greg Gay, an attorney specializing in elder law, told reporters that patients should consider changing their living wills in light of the new statute.

"Since the revisions to the living will statute do not take effect until Oct. 1, it is important to understand that any living will signed before Oct. 1 may be construed according to laws in effect when the living will was signed and not according to these new provisions," Gay said.

Established in 1997, the Five Wishes program is the latest in a series of efforts to inform Floridians about the need for end-of-life planning. So far, the document is considered legal in 33 states. More than 600,000 Five Wishes packets have been distributed nationwide.

The Five Wishes pamphlet deals with five critical areas and asks patients and their families to answer in detail a series of questions involving who will make decisions when the patient cannot; what types of medical treatment should be used or avoided; medication and comfort, visitation and other issues. Once filled out and notarized, it becomes a legal document.

"Under the Five Wishes, we get into what 'end-stage condition' is and we put it in regular English," Towey said. "It allows people to say how they want to treated."

To obtain a copy of "Five Wishes," send $5 to P.O. Box 1661, Tallahassee, FL32302.

 

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