W.Va. lawmakers propose bill to prevent hospitalized patients from spending last days alone
Known as Mylissa Smith’s Law
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - West Virginia lawmakers are proposing a bill that would mean people who are hospitalized during a pandemic would not have to face the time in the hospital alone.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there were countless stories of people whose loved ones died alone because pandemic protocols prevented loved ones, clergy or an advocate from being in the hospital.
House Bill 2368, which is being called Mylissa Smith’s Law, would protect hospitals, residential facilities (like hospice) and inpatient care facilities from lawsuits should a person become ill while visiting a patient.
Mylissa was a hospice nurse but was also working as an advocate for COVID patients who were isolated at a long-term care facility when she contracted COVID, Delegate Dean Jefferies, one of the bill’s cosponsors, tells WSAZ.
Devastatingly, she found herself in the same position. She was just 53 years old when she died Oct. 3, 2020. Mylissa went into the hospital on Sept. 5 and was placed on a ventilator on Sept. 19. She did not come off the ventilator to around Oct. 1 and had no visitation the entire time.
“I had more requests for this legislation than any other issue while we were out of session during the pandemic,” Jefferies said Wednesday night.
“This has caused long lasting traumatic damage, not only to families but to the front line workers as well,” he went on to say. “Imagine watching this play out day after day. Lipstick prints on windows, never ending cries for the company of someone they recognize and trust, for months on end.”
According to the proposed bill, it is a way to balance the spread of disease with the benefits of having family members with ill family members at critical times, such as the end of their lives.
It goes on to say that during a declared public health emergency that patients, family or clergy should be able to visit at any time and frequency if the person is diagnosed with a “lack of physical or mental capacity, and/or being provided acute care, and/or diagnosed with a terminal condition or illness and the patient’s death is expected to be imminent.”
The law would require those visitors to follow guidelines set forth by the facility for safety.
The bill also proposes that in other cases of hospitalization, or inpatient care at a facility, visitors should be allowed once every five days.
In addition to protecting facilities from lawsuits, it also states that it protects West Virginians’ religious freedoms.
“It’s one of the most important issues to our constituents,” Jefferies said. “I am honored to be able to fight for this for them, and especially for the Smith family.”
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