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12 23Sun04202014

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Back Local News Bill 195 gets some opposition in hearing

Bill 195 gets some opposition in hearing

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BILL 195, or the Infant Child's Right to Life Act, was panned by some residents in a public hearing yesterday with medical and legal practitioners raising questions about the problematic provisions of the proposed legislation.

Sen. Frank Aguon Jr.'s measure mandates that "healthcare providers give medically appropriate and reasonable life-sustaining medical care and treatment to all born-alive infants," including an infant whose live birth occurred as the result of an abortion.

According to the bill, "any physician, nurse, or other licensed healthcare provider who intentionally with premeditation, or intentionally, or knowingly, or recklessly, or by criminal negligence fails to provide reasonable and medically-appropriate and reasonable care and treatment to an infant in the course of an abortion shall be guilty of a criminal homicide as defined in the law."

However, the mother "will not be liable, criminally or civilly, for actions of a physician, nurse, or other licensed healthcare provider, in violation of the act to which she did not give her consent."

Lou Leon Guerrero, one of the prominent women leaders on the island but speaking solely for herself, said the legislation may be unnecessary.

“I am aware that there is always federal legislation that addresses the issue at hand, thus making this legislation unnecessary. As I read the bill, what was glaring to me is that you are now walking into the realm of medical practice that is not your area of expertise,” Leon Guerrero told the senators.

She added: “By way of this bill, you have taken away the discretion, the responsibility, the acumen, and judgment of those medical professionals who is on the ground experiencing the circumstances and is more equipped to make a decision.”

Affected

Attorney Anita Arriola started her testimony yesterday by saying she represents abortion providers and obstetrician-gynecologists whose criminal liability would be affected by the bill.

She said the measure is "unnecessary since Guam and federal law already protect born alive infants, whether or not they are born alive as a result of an abortion."

Arriola explained that Guam's criminal homicide law already exists and applies to an intentional or criminally negligent death of a born alive infant. She said a federal law also exists – the Born Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002.

The federal legislation, according to Arriola, "extends legal protection to an infant born alive after a natural or induced labor, cesarean section, or induced abortion.”

She said some provisions of Bill 195 also "do not make sense," adding the proposed legislation was copied word for word from a form issued by the Americans United for Life with the addition of the provision on criminal homicide.

The problem with form legislation, she said, is that there is "no real thought or regard to whether the bill is understandable or whether it should apply to Guam.”

Dr. Ellen Bez also provided her personal testimony and also spoke on behalf of Dr. Annie Bordallo.

Reading Bordallo's statement opposing Bill 195, Bez said: "The bill does not allow for any critical assessment before activating the emergency system and engaging resources we cannot afford to save infants that have no chance of survival."

At Guam Memorial Hospital, she said a review of the federal statute that protects infants born alive regardless of gestational age or viability was undertaken and a policy governing their responsibilities to the newborn, the parents, and the community was agreed upon by the ob-gyn and the pediatrics department.

"These physicians reviewed current medical data regarding survival rates and subsequent morbidity and determined a gestational age of 24 weeks and a weight of 500 grams as a threshold of viability, where resuscitation is mandated," she said.

By not including an assessment of viability in the bill, she said reasonable medical care cannot be defined.

"The sole purpose of this bill, it seems to be, is to set up criminal and civil penalties directed against doctors who provide these services to patients in need of them," according to Bordallo, adding, "It goes so far as to include a civil action of wrongful death when an infant, who cannot be saved by any medical intervention, dies."

She added: “The ability of our community to respond to the medical needs of everyone is dependent on judicious use of our scarce resources. A review of medical standards that are appropriate for the level of care available on Guam should determine what interventions we undertake for all segments of the community. This legislation has little role specifying what those interventions should or shouldn't be."

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