Legislature Passes Law to Include Extended Family in Health Care Decisions

The Washington State House of Representatives convenes for floor debate, March 11th, 2019.

OLYMPIA – The Legislature passed a new law on Monday evening that expands the list of those who may provide “informed consent” for health care treatment for incapacitated persons, such as those struggling with dementia.

Current law in Washington is narrower than most other states that already recognize the role extended family and close friends play in making health care decisions. Only guardians appointed by the court or people with durable power of attorney, spouses, adult children, parents, and adult siblings are authorized to make health care decisions for someone unable to make decisions for themselves. Unfortunately, some patients have no one who meets that criteria, creating “adult orphans.” The new proposal, HB 1175, authorizes adult grandchildren, adult nieces and nephews, adult aunts and uncles, or other adults such as close friends or companions that meet certain criteria. This will align Washington with 30 other states and ensure health care decisions are made by people most familiar with a patient’s condition and wishes.

“This legislation is about honoring people’s wishes and delivering the best care possible at critical moments in their lives. For patients unable to make decisions about their medical needs, and family members or close friends watching a loved one struggling, this law catches Washington up with other states,” said Rep. Christine Kilduff, D-University Place, the prime sponsor of the legislation.

HB 1175 moves to the governor’s desk for approval.