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Vitale Bill To Give Families Authority To Consent To Medical Research Considered In Committee

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Barbara Buono and Joseph Vitale which would authorize certain persons to give surrogate informed consent for a family member who is not able to give that consent was approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee today by a vote of 8-0, with 2 abstentions.

“Often times, a patient’s medical condition may make them unable to provide informed consent for experimental treatments which may be the key to their recovery,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, Chair of the Senate Health Committee. “Drug trials and medical research have an important impact on our collective medical understanding, but they can also be a patient’s last hope for a cure. When a patient cannot give informed consent, family members or authorized representatives who know the wishes of the patient should be empowered to make that decision for their loved one.”

The bill, S-1757, entitled the “Access to Medical Research Act,” would authorize adult family members or health care representatives dictated by an advance directive for health care to make certain medical decisions for an incapacitated patient in regards to medical research. The bill establishes a hierarchy for those people who can give informed consent, depending on whether the patient is receiving non-emergency or emergency room care. The bill also provides that a family member or authorized representative must exercise substituted judgment based on the wishes and values, to the extent known, of the patient and act in the patient’s best interests.

“Many drug trials or experimental treatments are offered in a limited time frame and are usually very competitive,” said Senator Vitale. “If a patient cannot provide informed consent, they can lose out on the opportunity to be included in potentially life-saving research. This bill would give family the chance to make health care decisions to guarantee a patient’s participation in research programs which could hold the promise of full recovery.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

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