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Society praises Legislature’s actions on overdose prevention, doctor condolence bills

Release Date: February 18, 2014
Contact: Kendi Parvin - 608.442.3748 kendi.parvin@wismed.org

MADISON (Feb. 18, 2014) – The Wisconsin Medical Society praised both houses of the Wisconsin State Legislature for their actions today, as both the Assembly and Senate advanced important bills through their chambers.

Heroin & Opiate Prevention and Education (HOPE) package
The State Senate approved four bills aimed at combating the state’s growing problem of heroin and other drug abuse. The bills – deemed the HOPE package by State Assembly Rep. John Nygren – will allow for greater use of the anti-overdose drug naloxone by emergency first responders (AB 446), provide limited immunity for those making 9-1-1 calls following an overdose (AB 447), make it easier for local government to create drug disposal programs (AB 448) and require identification when receiving certain prescription drugs (AB 445).

“These bills are an important first step as we fight back against this horrible scourge,” said Society President Timothy McAvoy, MD. “The HOPE package gives us a great chance to be successful in this fight– the bills are aimed at saving lives and monitoring drug distribution rather than taking a prosecutorial approach. That’s the thoughtful way to approach this issue, and we applaud Representative Nygren, Senator Sheila Harsdorf and the bipartisan support for these bills.”

These bills now move to Governor Walker’s desk.

Physician Condolence – Fostering Greater Physician-Patient Communication
The State Assembly approved Assembly Bill 120, which promotes more communication between a physician and a patient and a patient’s family, especially following a negative medical outcome when communication is most needed.

Attorneys often advise physicians to restrict their communication with patients if such an outcome occurs, fearing that any statements of apology or condolence could be interpreted as an admission of guilt or liability. Ironically, studies show that full and frank discussions following a negative outcome actually can help prevent a medical liability lawsuit from being filed, as the information helps patients and their family members have a better understanding of the facts behind the outcome.

“We want physicians talking with their patients and their patients’ family no matter what happens in treatment,” said Dr. McAvoy. “Clear and open communication between the physician and patient can only help folks understand why outcomes happened the way they did. But the fear of being sued for something that’s said far too often pushes physicians away, exactly when they should be reaching out.

“This bill will provide a safe environment that fosters those needed conversations. We thank the bill’s author, Rep. Erik Severson, MD, and those who supported the bill today,” McAvoy added.

AB 120 now moves to the State Senate for further consideration.