By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Wednesday, May 10, 2017, the Alabama Senate Health Committee gave a favorable report to a bill, House Bill 373, which gives legally binding authority to a child’s advanced directive when not in the hospital.
HB373 is sponsored by State Representative April Weaver (R-Alabaster) who chairs the House Health Committee. Weaver said that the bill requires that a terminally ill child’s advance directives be honored.
Rep. Weaver said, “This bill passed the House 98 to 0.” It would help terminally ill children to be able to go to school. We would be among the first in the nation to pass this. “I hope will be a model for the rest of the nation.
Rep. Weaver explained that there is a child in Limestone County with congestive heart failure. The doctors say that he could die at any time and there is nothing the doctors can do for his failing heart. He wanted to spend his last days in school; but the school administrators said that they could not honor his Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order. This bill would mean that a teacher who followed the advance directive could not then be sued.
State Senator Cam Ward offered a lengthy amendment to the bill. Sen. Ward said, “At one time everyone had a problem with this bill.” One party (referring to a lobby) has not stepped up, but the others have come forward with an amendment that solves most of the problems.
State Senator Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) said, “This bill still has some controversy.”
Rep. Weaver said that her original bill had civil and criminal immunity. Since then it has been changed to if they fail to follow the directive.
State Senator Paul Bussman (R-Cullman) said what if the child collapses in the hall and a school janitor rushes to assist and starts performing CPR is that janitor going to get in trouble? When the school nurse gets there, “Does the nurse tell the janitor to stop?” “I want these kids in school but I don’t want somebody who tried to help to be held liable.”
Sen. Gerald Dial said what if a football coach provided aid to the child 30 miles away from the school will he be held liable? I don’t want to see a coach or a bus driver who tried to help to be sued.
Rep. Weaver said, “The House passed this unanimously.”
Sen. Dial replied, “Having served there we know that you will pass almost anything up to us.”
State Senator Tim Melson (R-Florence) said that everybody is going to have to be involved. I am hoping that there will be a compromise. Sen. Bussman is right. The janitor is going to come to a child’s aid if he sees him fall out. I am worried about the unintended consequences.
The amendment was adopted 5 to 4. Sen. Dial made a motion to carry over the bill so that the parties could have another week to work out their differences. He then dropped the motion to carry over. Sen. Dial said, “This bill still concerns me. I still have reservations left.”
The bill received a favorable report 9 to 0.
The Alabama Political Reporter held a lengthy conversation with some of the education lobbyists speaking off the record. They said that they want blanket immunity for the school systems and all the education employees. They claim that trial lawyers’ lobbyists however are refusing to agree to blanket civil and criminal immunity and are offering civil immunity only if the advance directive is followed to the letter. The education lobbyists said they are not happy with the Ward amendment and they want to see this bill either changed back to the original bill or defeated entirely at this point.