H.B. 2531 would enact the Prevention of Assisted Suicide Act by redefining the current crime of assisting suicide and creating civil causes of action for injunctive relief and damages. The bill also amends the law regarding abortions and post-viability abortion restrictions. Further, the bill prohibits the use of the partial birth abortion procedure except in certain limited circumstances.
The bill redefines the crime of assisting suicide as: (1) knowingly causing another person to commit or attempt to commit suicide (a severity level 3 person felony) or (2) intentionally and purposefully assisting a person to commit or attempt to commit suicide by providing the physical means to commit or attempt to commit suicide or participating in a physical act by which the person commits or attempts to commit suicide (a severity level 9 person felony).
The bill makes an exception from prosecution for a licensed health care professional who administers, prescribes, or dispenses medication to relieve another person's pain or discomfort even if such action might hasten or increase the risk of death unless such action was done with the intent to cause death. The bill also provides that a licensed health care professional, family member, or other legally authorized person who participates in the act of or in the decision making process which results in the withholding or withdrawal of a life-sustaining procedure does not violate the law. Further, providing spiritual treatment by prayer alone in lieu of medical treatment does not violate the law.
The bill creates two causes of action as follows:
Reasonable attorney fees may also be recovered by a prevailing plaintiff or a prevailing defendant when there is a determination the suit was frivolous or brought in bad faith.
In addition, grounds for disciplinary actions may be levied by the Board of Nursing, the Dental Board, the Board of Pharmacy, and the Board of Healing Arts for violations of the Act.
The bill amends existing law regarding post-viability abortions as follows:
The bill requires that the doctor then must report to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) the reason for determining that gestational age was 22 or more weeks and the fetus was not viable. If a post-22-week viable fetus is aborted, the bill requires a report to KDHE regarding the basis for the determination of fetal age and viability and the necessity for the abortion. Further, doctors are required to retain the woman's medical records, including the determination of gestational age, fetal viability, and necessity for the abortion, and the required written reports to KDHE for at least five years.
A conviction of a violation of any provision of the post-viability abortion restrictions is a class A nonperson misdemeanor for the first offense and a level 10 nonperson felony for second or subsequent offenses. Women upon whom an abortion is performed shall not be prosecuted for conspiracy to violate the post-viability abortion law.
Partial Birth Abortions
In regard to partial birth abortions, the bill:
General Abortion Regulations
The bill also requires physicians to conform with the Woman's Right to Know Act, whether or not an abortion is performed.
The abortion reporting requirement for medical facilities is amended to include the reports of determination of fetal viability, gestational age, and medical necessity for abortion.
The bill also amends the definition of unprofessional conduct in the healing arts statutes to include a violation of the post-viability requirements.
A conferee from the Kansas Medical Society (KMS) appeared in support of the bill. Also testifying in support of the measure were conferees from Kansans for Life, the Kansas Catholic Conference, and the Association of Kansas Hospices. A letter of support was received on behalf of the Kansas Association of Osteopathic Medicine.
The House Committee amendments include the suggestions from the KMS, a clarification of who can bring suit in an action for civil damages, and cleanup amendments.
The fiscal note indicates there is an undetermined fiscal impact at this time. Any fiscal impact will center around increased litigation due to two new causes of action and the provisions requiring court documentation as evidence in actions before disciplinary boards.
The Senate Committee added the clarification regarding withholding or withdrawing life sustaining procedures and spiritual treatment by prayer alone and deleted the House Committee of the Whole amendment which would have required the University of Kansas Medical Center to conduct symposiums on pain management and quality of life in the last stages of life.
The Senate Committee of the Whole added the post-viability and partial birth abortion provisions.
1. *Supplemental notes are prepared by the Legislative Research Department and do not express legislative intent. The supplemental note and fiscal note for this bill may be accessed on the Internet at http://www.ink.org/public/legislative/fulltext-bill.html.