By Kathy Ostrowski, Legislative Director, Kansans for Life
Last night, the Kansas Senate approved Simon’s Law, 29-11, despite a last-minute hostile amendment from Sen. Barbara Bollier. All but three Republicans voted in favor of this Kansans for Life-priority bill while eight of nine Democrats voted in opposition. Simon’s Law insures that parents are the decision-makers when it comes to Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders for their critically ill children.
Sen. Jacob LaTurner carried the bill on the Senate floor, and opposed the Bollier amendment as undermining the key purpose of the bill.
Simon’s Law was introduced last year and passed the Senate but wasn’t heard in the House before time ran out on the session. It is named in honor of infant Simon Crosier, whose life ended when he was denied resuscitation in a hospital, after a DNR was put on his chart without the knowledge or consent of his parents.
Parents have been uniformly shocked and disturbed to discover that DNRs could be assigned to their children without their consent. In a number of cases, families testified, their children were treated as “not worthy of life” due to chromosomal disorders. Simon had Trisomy 18.
During Thursday evening’s Senate floor debate, pro-life champion Sen. Mary Pilcher Cook brought up the issue of medical discrimination. She cited a book by former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum and his wife, Karen.
In “Bella’s Gift: How One Little Girl Transformed Our Family and Inspired a Nation,” the Santorums chronicle medical discrimination against their daughter, Bella, who, like Simon, has Trisomy 18.
Sen. Santorum recounts how Bella had to be hospitalized repeatedly and for six years, medical personnel continually advised the Santorums to let her die.
Sen. Pilcher Cook warned that medical discrimination still exists. She cited last year’s study in which 25%-76% of responding pediatricians said they were comfortable issuing DNRs unilaterally. That is the situation Simon’s Law is meant to end.
Vocal support for parental rights during the debate on Simon’s Law also came from pro-life Senators Rob Olson, Dennis Pyle, and Steve Fitzgerald.
This year, Kansans for Life collaborated with medical and disability experts to produce a slightly amended version of Simon’s Law, which was commended during floor debate. Sub SB 85 now requires that parents be informed orally and in writing, before an order for a DNR can be placed in the medical chart of an unemancipated minor. The delivery of that information must be recorded on the chart.
Parents can allow that order to proceed or refuse it.
If there is a conflict, the child’s life must be preserved. This provision was emphasized by Sen. LaTurner as particularly important.
Sub SB 85 also requires that hospitals and medical facilities with written “futility” policies about when life-sustaining care will be denied, must disclose them to patients (or prospective patients) upon request.
Simon’s Law will have a hearing in the House Federal & State Affairs committee on Tuesday. In the House, Simon’s Law has the sponsorship of 30 State Reps, including three practicing physicians.