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Senate Advances Bill On Living Wills

TRENTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee today approved two bills, sponsored by Senator John H. Adler, to help New Jersey residents keep living wills up to date after marriages, divorces or the beginnings or terminations of domestic partnerships.

“Our goal here is to help those who choose advance directives for health care to have those wishes carried out in a timely and accurate manner,” said Senator Adler, the Chairman of the Senate panel. “We’ve learned of the importance to families of knowing exactly how those about to leave us want to be treated.”

Senator Adler said he believed decisions made in living wills should be intimate family matters.

“Health care decisions should’t involve national debates played out in the media, in federal courts or from the front lawn of the White House,” he said. “We need to learn from the unfortunate final days of (Floridian) Terri Schiavo about the importance of having living wills.”

One of the bills, S-2519, would require a licensing officer or other person issuing marriage licenses and local registrars dispensing affidavits of domestic partnerships to give applicants copies of the booklet, “Planning Ahead for Your Health Care: Making Your Wishes Known.” The popular “How To” for drawing up a living will was compiled by the New Jersey Commission on Legal and Ethical Problems in the Delivery of Health Care.

“It just makes good sense to remind couples about how each partner can help the other by clearing expressing their wishes about health care treatments,” Senator Adler said.

The second bill, S-2520, would require judges in divorces and in termination of domestic partnership actions to inquire whether the parties involved would want to change or revoke their existing advance directives.

The bills passed unanimously and now await action by the full Senate.

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