Bowers Stalls Bill Making COVID-19 Treatment Refusal A Fundamental Right

March 24, 2022

By Terri Jo Neff |

The Arizona Senate has passed legislation which would prohibit a hospital or health care provider from imposing any treatment for COVID-19 or a variant but the bill has stalled in the House where Speaker Rusty Bowers has not scheduled it for its First Reading.

According to sponsor Sen. Nancy Barto, the legislative intent of Senate Bill 1393  is to confirm that public policy makes it “a fundamental right” to refuse any COVID-19 treatment or vaccination. Yet despite clearing the Senate on March 15, House Speaker Rusty Bowers has yet to allow the bill to have its First Reading in that chamber.

SB1393 would allow health care providers to ask a patient to specify in writing the circumstances under which the patient would accept a COVID-19 treatment if the patient cannot later express his or her consent. For purposes of the proposed legislation, a health care provider is defined as a licensed physician, a licensed nurse practitioner, or a licensed physician assistant. 

The bill also requires a hospital or health care provider to ensure a patient who refuses a COVID-19 treatment is counseled and given information on other treatment options. No treatment could be mandated without a patient’s informed consent.

In addition, a patient orimmediate family of the patient would have to be advised of the patient’s right to leave a hospital; immediate family is described as a patient’s spouse, parent, child, sibling grandparent, or legal guardian.

Barto’s co-sponsors on SB1393 were Senators Sine Kerr, David Livingston, and Warren Petersen. The bill was supposed to be heard by the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning, but without a First Reading that could not occur.

The Arizona Medical Association and most of the state’s hospitals oppose the bill.

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