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Morality and Mortality: the Role of Values in the Adoption of Laws Governing the Involuntary Removal of Life Sustaining Medical Treatment in Us States

Description: Disputes between patients and providers regarding life-sustaining medical treatment (LSMT) are universal across all U.S. states, yet policies regarding these disputes differ significantly. This dissertation determines that all 50 states have advance directive laws that protect a patient’s right to refuse LSMT even when a healthcare provider objects, yet only some states have policies that protect the patient’s right to choose to continue LSMT when a healthcare provider objects (a dispute known as medical futility). Some states have pro-patient laws that protect the patient’s right to make the final decision, while other states have enacted pro-provider medical futility policies that explicitly grant the provider authority to remove LSMT against the patient’s wishes. Finally, in one state, the law delegates the final decision to a third-party: institutional healthcare ethics committees. This dissertation studies the innovation and adoption of these 17 state medical futility policies, examining the theory that values determine both whether the state adopts a medical futility policy as well as what type of medical futility policy a state will adopt- as the policy actors that represent these values: policy entrepreneurs and interest groups. A comparative case study of successful third-party policy adoption in Texas contrasted against a failed effort in Idaho could not affirm the necessity of policy entrepreneurs for policy adoption but did affirm the necessity of interest group consensus and the role of values. Furthermore, quantitative analysis failed to offer statistically-significant evidence of value indicators, but did suggest that government ideology and political party affiliation may potentially become indicators of the type of medical futility policy that states choose to adopt.
Date: August 2012
Creator: Harvey, Jacqueline Christine