Regier’s bill misunderstands complicated medical situation

November 2, 2022 4:15 am

Dr. Brad Holbrook, an obstetrician and maternal-fetal medicine physician, speaks at an event advocating against ballot measure LR-131 in the Capitol rotunda in Helena on Thursday. (Photo by Nicole Girten/Daily Montanan)

I was dismayed to read Rep. Matt Regier’s column stating that physicians and nurses involved in “born alive” situations misunderstand his initiative.

Legislative Referendum 131, he asserts, would not present medical professionals with any problem. As a pediatric hospice and palliative medicine physician, I’ve been at the bedside with parents facing this unimaginable loss. Simply put, Rep. Regier is uneducated on this issue. 

Only the uninformed could make the statement that the words “medically appropriate and reasonable actions to preserve the life and health of a born-alive infant” protect a medical team from potential felony charges.  This suggestion by proponents of LR 131 ignores the complexity and heartache of these situations and discussions.  

Other states’ born-alive bills specifically recognize parents’ right to refuse to consent to “treatment that will do no more than temporarily prolong the act of dying when death is imminent.” That this language was not included in  Regier’s bill adds to the cruelty and harm that it would bring to families, infants and the medical team.

LR 131 mandates that anyone who feels that “reasonable and appropriate care” was not provided must report it.  Legal action to prosecute would follow.  To subject caregivers, both family and physicians, to legal action after this profoundly tragic experience would compound already unbearable grief.  This will happen.  Those who are not present during the provision of the medical information evaluating prognosis, family wishes and questions simply cannot fathom the complex and agonizing decisions parents wrestle with in these situations.

There is truly no time more genuinely heart-wrenching and compassionate than times the medical providers spend with parents listening, providing medical information and answering questions about their infant who will not survive after birth.  Listen to the voices of those who are informed, experienced and trained for many years to journey with families down this tragic road.  Do not let uninformed government overreach rob parents of their right to determine what is best for their child and interfere with a medical team’s determination of how best to “do no harm.”

Regier reminds us “there are times an issue of such great importance arises that the people should weigh in directly.”  On issues of great importance, however, it is imperative that voters have accurate information from people who have direct experience with the issue at hand so that they can make an informed, thoughtful decision.  Misinformation from proponents does this process a disservice. 

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