By Kathy Ostrowski, Legislative Director, Kansans for Life
Pro-lifers across the nation have been reading our series of articles on the “Faces & Facts of Simon’s Law,” and are urging Kansas to protect children and empower parents by enacting this vital measure. Parents are stunned to learn that a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) or DNAR (Do Not Attempt Resuscitation) order can be placed in a child’s medical chart without the permission of any parent.
The bill will prevent minors from being denied life-sustaining treatment without parental permission and will require, upon request, disclosure of hospital policies on “futile care.”
The state legislature returns to work today following a short recess. Last month the Kansas Senate passed SB 437, Simon’s Law, by a notable bipartisan 37-3 vote.
Recently, four medical associations have published their strong support for Simon’s Law. The following are some excerpts from their endorsements:
· The American College of Pediatricians informs that, “Once inconceivable, the practice of hospital staff placing a do not resuscitate (DNR) order on a child’s chart without the informed consent of the child’s parents or legal guardian is on the rise… increasingly predicated upon the ill-defined and subjective concept of ‘quality of life’ with one or more disabilities considered intolerable.”
· The Association of American Physicians & Surgeons writes, “[C]are judged by some to be ‘futile’ is often life-saving, even if it does not restore full function… [When] there is a time when medical intervention provides no benefit, it is unethical and should be unlawful for a medical facility to determine that point unilaterally.”
· The National Association of Prolife Nurses asserts that parents have “a right to full disclosure and participation in the healthcare decisions of their disabled or severely ill children.”
· The Kansas City (Kansas/Missouri) Guild of the Catholic Medical Association believes Simon’s Law “recognizes the right practice of medicine… the sacredness of life and the primary role parents have in caring for a child. [F]acilities or practitioners cannot and should not determine that a patient’s life is no longer deserving of medical care.”
These medical group endorsements acknowledge that DNRs are very often being issued due to negative judgments about the kind of life the child will live—not upon a medical assessment of impending death. In shorthand, such judgments about ‘futility’ are qualitative, not physiological.
The families that submitted testimony on behalf of Simon’s Law recounted that too many medical personnel clearly viewed their child as a victim of disabilities, without a rewarding life–a view that the family vigorously disputed.
Neonatologist Martin McCaffrey regularly treats severely ill infants and counsels many families about Trisomy 18 and other related chromosomal conditions. He advises:
“A medical team using its subjective prediction of future quality of life as criteria to make life and death decisions, and forcing that determination is a tyrannical enforcement of prejudice towards children with disabilities.
The case which prompted Simon’s Law legislation is a prime example of such bias.
It is my sincere hope that Simon’s Law will pass. The only physicians and hospitals that would be impacted by this legislation are those employing unilateral [orders not to resuscitate].”
Knowledgeable medical groups and individuals agree that Simon’s Law, SB 437, is a necessary corrective measure.