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Susan Hickman, PhD, director of the Indiana University Center for Aging Research at Regenstrief Institute, testified in front of the Indiana Senate Judiciary Committee on January 27, 2021, about the need to update the state’s laws surrounding patient care preferences. The current advance care planning law has been in place for 28 years. Dr. Hickman stated that many of the current statutes are obsolete and can be problematic.  

The new bill, Senate Bill 204, addresses two kinds of advance directives – patient preferences for end-of-life treatment and the appointment of a legal representative to make decisions on behalf of an incapacitated patient. The bill would remove vague and conflicting cross references, create just one mechanism to appoint a legal representative, and establish general standards for advance directives expressing preferences. The bill allows for implementation of innovations that have occurred over the last three decades, such as easytoread advance directives and popular tools like Five Wishes, which is currently not legally valid in Indiana.    

Dr. Hickman served as chair of the Indiana Palliative Care and Quality of Life Advisory Council from 2016-2019. During that time, she worked with stakeholders to make recommendations to improve advance care planning in Indiana. Those recommendations are reflected in SB 204.  

During her testimony. Dr. Hickman stated the benefits of updating the laws, noting they are especially important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has highlighted several shortcomings in the current statutes and heightened awareness of the importance of advance care planning 

Dr. Hickman is nationally recognized for her work to help ensure that patients’ end-of-life treatment preferences are known and honored as well as for her work translating research into policy. Dr. Hickman is a founding member of the National POLST (Physicians Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) Paradigm as well as current Chair of the National POLST Research and Quality Assurance Committee.  

About Susan Hickman, PhD

In addition to leading the IU Center for Aging Research at Regenstrief Institute, Susan Hickman, PhD, is a professor at Indiana University School of Nursing, a professor and Cornelius and Yvonne Pettinga Chair of Aging Research at IU School of Medicine, and the co-director of the IUPUI Research in Palliative and End-of-Life Communicating and Training (RESPECT) Signature Center. She is also the associate director of the Indiana Patient Preferences Coalition.  

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