The Senate on Tuesday advanced a bill that would forbid hospitals from withholding life-sustaining treatment from children without permission from a parent or guardian.
Senate Bill 437 would prohibit a physician or health care facility from withholding life-sustaining treatment or placing a do-not-resuscitate order on someone younger than 18 without parental permission. If the parents disagreed, they could petition a district court to settle the case, with the presumption in favor of continuing treatment.
The bill would create exemptions if reasonable medical judgment determined a treatment was “futile,” meaning the patient’s death isn’t likely to be hastened if he or she doesn’t receive it, or “medically inappropriate,” meaning that offering treatment puts the patient at a greater risk of death than withholding it.
The Senate voted to pass the bill, with 36 in favor and four opposed, after a preliminary vote on Monday.
Sen. Jacob LaTurner, a Pittsburg Republican, said some parents have discovered that facilities placed do-not-resuscitate orders on their special needs children without permission. He said he didn’t know of any examples in Kansas, but did know of an infant named Simon Crosier in Missouri who died after a hospital decided not resuscitate him.
“This is an important situation that requires health care facilities to make parents central in the decisions,” he said. “Give parents the chance to make these important decisions.”
Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat, said she didn’t think anyone was opposed to the “intended consequences” of the bill, but she is concerned it could have effects the state hasn’t anticipated. She said she is concerned other stakeholders weren’t included in the conversation about the bill.
“I think we could come up with a compromise that could work, not only for the parents but also for the hospitals,” she said. “The intent of it is honorable. The process was horrible.”
No one spoke in opposition to the bill while it was in the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, though Kelly said she had heard opposition from children’s hospitals. The bill still needs House approval.
Medical licensure compact
The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 2456, which would allow Kansas to join the 12-member interstate medical licensure compact. The House approved the bill on a 120-2 vote last month.
The compact allows a physician in any member state to submit an application for an expedited license in any of the other member states. The physician still would have to pay applicable fees in each state, and the state could regulate care of patients within its borders, even if the physician was in another state and seeing the patient via telemedicine.
Sen. Jeff King, an Independence Republican, said the bill would particularly benefit rural counties along the state’s border. Mercy Hospital in Independence closed in October.
Family planning funds
The Senate also gave initial approval to Senate Bill 436, which would first grant federal funds for family planning under Title X to public entities, such as local health departments. Any money left would then go to private hospitals and federally qualified health centers. Title X is a grant program through the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services.
Sen. Marci Francisco, a Lawrence Democrat, offered an amendment saying the Kansas Department of Health and Environment may contract for long-acting reversible forms of birth control. A Colorado policy encouraging use of long-acting birth control has resulted in a lower unintended pregnancy rates and fewer abortions in that state, she said.
Some Kansas counties haven’t sought Title X grants, Francisco said, so the state needs to prioritize long-acting birth control so some women won’t have to make frequent, lengthy trips to refill a prescription.
“Some of that may be due to an ideological concern, but I think much of this is due to the expense,” she said. “What we have is kind of a patchwork system.”
Sen. Caryn Tyson, a Parker Republican who sponsored the bill, said she thought decisions about family planning services should be made on the local level, and Francisco’s amendment was voted down.
The bill passed the Senate with 31 in favor and nine opposed. It now needs House approval.