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State Legislature Should Not Strip Patients’ Rights as Part of Emergency Response

I am expressing deep concerns about proposed legislation, A. 3910, designed to provide civil and criminal immunity to certain health care professionals and health care facilities during this public health emergency.

Under this bill, an individual or family affected by COVID-19 would not have the strong grounding to pursue possible legal malpractice action. I voted not to participate in the vote roll call Monday. This bill is inhumane.

At a time when state lawmakers should be providing resources to families, I’m disappointed that such legislation would be disguised as part of a public policy emergency. In the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, it was reassured to me that controversial or highly debatable legislative bills would not be brought forth without proper discussion.

I’m dismayed that days after public discussion regarding how minorities are more affected by COVID-19 that the state Legislature would consider a bill that selectively strips the rights of individuals their right to pursue legal actions, if need be.

This fast-moving bill was introduced on Thursday, the day before Good Friday and amended in the Senate on Monday. The bill skipped both the Assembly and Senate Health and/or Judiciary committee review and appears to be on the board list for a vote today.

No public discussion. No public input.

I am hoping that Gov. Phil Murphy provides a conditional veto that strikes the immunity aspect, allowing families the options and legal right without legislative interference or interpretation. I'm recommending the governor support the remainder of the bill, which actually provides assistance to the ongoing efforts of this pandemic.

I believe we all can agree that at times, swift legislative actions must be necessary for various reasons. However, unjust, rushed legislation that removes the constitutional right of an individual(s) through legislation should have reasonable public hearings and input, even remotely, if needed.

The proposed legislation would be retroactive to March 2020 – requiring the need for further public debate about back dating a law.

As elected officials, it is with great hopes that we would want to provide thoughtful legislation to the public. But impacting the constitutional rights of the citizenry without its input hits all aspects of governmental failure.

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