Kansas to give parents more say in children’s critical care

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is taking steps to give parents more control over medical decisions about life-prolonging care for their disabled or critically ill children with a new law that supporters hope becomes a model for other states.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill Friday that will prevent hospitals and physicians from instituting do-not-resuscitate orders or similar directives for children if one parent objects. The new law takes effect July 1.

The law was a priority for Kansans for Life, an influential anti-abortion group that also lobbies against assisted suicide and on end-of-life issues. The measure also had the backing of other conservatives groups, the Kansas Catholic Conference and advocates for the disabled. Brownback was surrounded by members of several families as he signed it.

“The dignity and quality of each life should be valued,” Brownback said before signing the bill. “It should be revered. It should be protected.”

Supporters said the new law is the first of its kind and was inspired by cases in other states, including Missouri. Brownback and other supporters of Kansas’ bill wore stickers featuring a photo of Simon Crosier, a 3-month-old St. Louis boy with a rare genetic disorder who died in December 2010.

The boy had a rare genetic disorder that often causes infants to be born dead or to die shortly after birth. His parents said a physician issued a do-not-resuscitate order for their son without their knowledge. They sought passage of the Kansas law, which is named for him and hope it encourages Missouri lawmakers to follow suit.

The Kansas Senate approved the measure 29-9 last month, and the House followed suit two weeks later, 121-3 .

Under the new law, health care providers must notify at least one parent when they intend to institute a do-not-resuscitate order or similar directive, and the parent can refuse. Parents can go to court if they believe the law is being violated, and if parents ask, health care providers are required to provide their policies outlining when medical treatments are deemed futile.

While acknowledging the tragedies faced by the Crosiers and parents in other states, several legislators who voted against the bill questioned whether it was necessary in Kansas.

Democratic Rep. John Carmichael, a Wichita attorney who has handled lawsuits involving medical care for three decades, said: “I have never known of an instance when the physician disregarded the family’s wishes.”

 

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