W.Va. lawmakers propose bill to prevent hospitalized patients from spending last days alone

Known as Mylissa Smith’s Law
Published: Mar. 18, 2021 at 8:23 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Throughout the pandemic, families have been torn apart by COVID-19. It’s a story that was shared across the world from families whose loved ones died alone because hospital regulations prevented visitors.

It’s the situation the Smith family found themselves in. Mylissa Smith was just 53 years old when she died Oct. 3, 2020. She fought her battle with COVID-19 for more than a month, spending two weeks on the ventilator. She went into the hospital on Sept. 5 and was placed on a ventilator on Sept. 19. She did not come off the ventilator around Oct. 1 and had no visitation the entire time.

“That’s the hardest thing, knowing she was by herself. There’s no excuse for that,” said Wesley Smith, Mylissa’s widower. “Nobody was there to hold her hand or to give her the comfort she needed.”

Before she passed away, she worked as a hospice nurse, advocating for families and patients who were isolated at long-term care facilities and picking up extra shifts where she eventually contracted the virus.

“She was so passionate about her work. She has been there about 13 years with hospice taking care of those people and being with them in their last moments,” Wesley Smith said.

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.

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.

The bill says family members, advocates, or clergy would have to abide by the hospital’s regulation for protective personal equipment required to wear during the visit and other safety guidelines.

“It’s one of the most important issues to our constituents,” said state Delegate Dean Jefferies, R-Kanawha, one of the bill’s cosponsors. “I know there’s some opposition from health care administration and hospitals. It’s not a situation where we’re trying to drop the hammer on them for anything they’ve done. This bill is a human rights bill to protect the human rights that nobody should suffer alone.”

“All over the area I’ve had people say to me, ‘I knew Mylissa. She was there for us. She took care of so and so,’ ” Wesley Smith said. “People have come all over to tell me the great things she’s done for their families. She [Mylissa] deserves something great too. I believe this bill is it.”

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