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Governor Signs Patient Protections Bill Into Law

March 31st, 2022

Governor Brad Little has signed HB756 into law.  This critical legislation – which we view as the most important of the 2022 Session – provides many safeguards for patients should Idaho ever go back into “Crisis Standards of Care”. 

Idaho has experienced three waves of “Crisis Standards of Care” over the past seven months in response to high rates of COVID infection.  During CSC, hospitals have been providing substandard care to all patients.  The guidelines developed by various health experts to ration care in emergencies failed to provide explicit and solid protections for patients and families.

Idaho Chooses Life spent well over a year researching and advocating for legislation to guarantee that, even in a “crisis”, pro-Life principles would be respected.  Governor Little’s office, Sen. Chuck Winder, Speaker Scott Bedke and several other key legislators provided immense help in crafting the legislation and pushing the measure through this Legislature.

Under the new law, patients and families will:

  • Have the right to in-person visitation by at least one family member or friend;
  • Have the right to file formal grievances against a hospital denying care or for mistreatment;
  • No patient will be denied food & water
  • Patient’s Living Wills will be honored, regardless of the state of “crisis” in a hospital
  • Patients cannot be discriminated against because of their choice to get vaccinated
  • A patient’s religious convictions and conscience rights will be protected
  • Patients are guaranteed the right to informed consent regarding treatment and procedures

One of the greatest features of this legislation is the creation of a Patient Ombudsman.  As hospitals became overwhelmed with patients amid a nursing shortage, complaints were made that some patients were being denied critical care.  Under CSC, patients and families were pretty powerless to get their loved ones the care they needed.

If we ever go back into this state of emergency … patients and family members will be able to go to the Governor’s office for help.  If CSC is declared, the Governor will set up a special ombudsman within his office to help patients get the medicine, equipment and treatment they need.

Another important feature of this new law is accountability. If CSC is ever again imposed, hospitals and the Department of Health & Welfare are charged to establish exactly what shortages are driving the health care system into crisis. Plans must be developed for meeting that shortage to ensure that CSC operates for the shortest possible time frame. And all of that must be publicly reported to members of the Legislature in a timely manner.

The magnitude of this legislation can perhaps best be understood by recalling the case of Terri Schiavo.  Today marks the 17th anniversary of her death at the hands of a medical establishment and court system which determined that her life no longer had value.  Over the course of weeks, she was deprived of food and water, and given “comfort” drugs as the world watched her slow and inevitable demise. 

Over the past couple of decades, we have battled for Life at the Legislature.  Most of that effort has gone into protecting preborn children from the scourge of abortion.  But the pro-Life movement is about much more than abortion.  It is about affirming God’s gift of Life … from conception to natural death.  We have battled the “death with dignity” crowd on several occasions, and enacted legislation to make it a felony to assist with a suicide.

Some of the treatment guides and protocols developed by the experts around “Crisis Standards of Care” represented a serious threat to pro-Life values.  It was vital to push back against those people in medicine and our culture who believe that doctors and hospitals should be empowered to determine who lives and dies.  We could not allow CSC Treatment Guidelines to be used as a portal to normalize euthanasia, or to advance the agenda of the “Compassionate Choices” crowd.

We are grateful for the leadership of Governor Little, Speaker Scott Bedke and Senator Chuck Winder.  We also want to publicly express our sincere appreciation for the hard work put forth by our lead legislative sponsors, Rep. Megan Blanksma and Sen. Todd Lakey.

The Lord has provided an historic victory for the pro-Life movement in Idaho, and we believe this legislation could serve as a model for other states.