By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH – Do you have a living will? Is it on file with the Secretary of State? These are questions North Carolinians may soon be asked when they go to get their driver’s licenses.
Senate Bill 595, filed by Sen. Eddie Goodall (R-Union), would require that licenses issued by the Division of Motor Vehicles include, alongside the name, photo, physical description and other identification information, a “living will designation that identifies applicants that have a living will on file in the Secretary of State’s Advance Healthcare Directive Registry.”
The Senate passed the bill unanimously Thursday, the same day the House approved House Bill 1114, a nearly identical measure introduced by Rep. Jim Gulley (R-Mecklenburg), though it was amended to take affect October 2010, a year later than the Senate version.
Sen. Goodall said this week that he expects the bill to become a law that will not only help families facing end-of-life issues with their loved ones, but also serve to educate individuals about the importance of making their wishes known in advance of a medically critical situation.
“My Mom died October 10 of last year and she already had a healthcare power of attorney and there was consensus in the family as to what she would have wanted, but even if you have all that, it is still an excruciating decision to have to make to decide what to do about life support,” Goodall said. “I can’t imagine the difficulty and what would happen if there is no documentation as to the person’s wishes and there is disagreement in the family.”
The living will designation on a driver’s license would work somewhat like the organ donation symbol. It would not give any indication as to what level or type of care the patient has requested, but would simply alert those making medical decisions that they should check the Secretary of State’s Advance Healthcare Directive Registry for a living will that would indicate the patient’s intentions. A person with such a directive on file would be able to change their living will at any point or remove it from the registry, as has always been the case. The license designation would simply provide a clue to loved ones who might be desperate for information to help them carry out the patient’s wishes.
“I want to make it clear that this bill is not in any way to encourage withdrawal of healthcare,” Sen. Goodall said. “It is about the positive aspects of families sharing this information with each other to make end-of-life decisions easier.”
He said simply having DMV officials ask the question about living wills – just as they already ask about organ donation – will help educate people about the need to make clear their wishes regarding critical healthcare before the need arises. If license applicants do not understand what a living will is, Sen. Goodall said the DMV will have established a simple one- or two-sentence explanation to define it, without being in danger of handing out legal or healthcare advice.
Just like with organ donation, having a designation of “living will” on your driver’s license will not take the place of making sure your family members understand your wishes. It may simply point them to a detailed document to help.
“It also doesn’t mean, if there is not a designation on the license, that the loved one shouldn’t try to determine if there is a living will,” Goodall explained.
He said estimates show the cost of implementing the legislation would be roughly $81,000 the first year, and less than $10,000 per year thereafter.