March 15, 2005

Rebecca Harmon
(215) 349-5660


Leading Bioethicist To Argue Against Passage of H.R. 1151 -- Triggered by Terri Schiavo Case

(Philadelphia, PA) -- Arthur L. Caplan, PhD, Chair of the Department of Medical Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, will testify at 2:00 PM tomorrow before the U.S. House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee against the passage of House Bill 1151 -- which would require federal intervention in some termination-of-life-support cases now handled by state courts. If passed, the proposed legislation would effectively delay or prevent the removal of a feeding tube from Terri Schiavo -- a measure recently authorized, once again, by the Florida court system. According to Caplan, "If enacted, the proposed legislation will threaten the ability of Americans to exercise a well-established right to refuse medical treatment. If enacted, it threatens to deny this right to those who are unable to communicate their wishes and values about medical care. And the proposed legislation inappropriately calls for the intrusion of Federal courts into matters that have historically been given to states to manage."

During his testimony, Caplan, who also serves as Director of the Center for Bioethics at Penn, will note that H.R. 1151 will immediately undermine existing advance directives and living wills; will give interloping family members and third parties too much authority; will inappropriately undermine the authority of state courts; and will rob patients of their rights by adding more due-process factors. "There is an insufficient foundation for the view that existing protections in hospitals and nursing homes -- in the form of family meetings and ethics committees -- along with review by the appropriate levels of state courts, subject to review by the United State Supreme Court, are insufficient to protect the liberty and privacy interests of incompetent patients," adds Caplan.


PENN Medicine is a $2.7 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and high-quality patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Penn’s School of Medicine is ranked #3 in the nation for receipt of NIH research funds; and ranked #4 in the nation in U.S. News & World Report’s most recent ranking of top research-oriented medical schools. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.

Penn Health System is comprised of: its flagship hospital, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, consistently rated one of the nation’s “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital; Presbyterian Medical Center; a faculty practice plan; a primary-care provider network; two multispecialty satellite facilities; and home health care and hospice.

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