Policy

Ohio legislation would add ‘death’ to duties of physician assistants

A bill introduced in Ohio’s House of Representatives would add to the duties of physician assistants and give  them the authority to determine and pronounce a patient’s death. The newly introduced healthcare legislation, House Bill 284, is similar to a bill passed overwhelmingly by the House in the previous legislative session that gave the same […]

A bill introduced in Ohio’s House of Representatives would add to the duties of physician assistants and give  them the authority to determine and pronounce a patient’s death.

The newly introduced healthcare legislation, House Bill 284, is similar to a bill passed overwhelmingly by the House in the previous legislative session that gave the same right to registered nurses. The RN bill didn’t make it to a vote in the Senate.

The new Ohio legislation places several restrictions on physician assistants’ (PAs) right to pronounce death and only allows them  to do so when a patient’s “respiratory and circulatory functions are not being artificially sustained,” according to the bill.

In addition, PAs would be limited to pronouncing death in nursing homes, hospices and residential facilities, which means  they wouldn’t have the right to do so in hospitals.

PAs would be required to notify the patient’s doctor of the death “within a reasonable period of time” after pronouncing and determining death, but that’s not good enough for the state’s largest doctors’ group. The Ohio State Medical Association (OSMA) objected to the similar RN proposal because it didn’t require immediate notification of doctors.

Reached today, spokesman Jason Koma reiterated OSMA’s objection to the lack of immediacy in the proposal.  Nonetheless, OSMA expressed willingness to work with the legislation’s backers in the hopes of coming up with a new version that’s more palatable to the doctors’ group.

“Despite the OSMA’s opposition to this legislation, we look forward to working with the sponsors and proponents to develop an alternative solution to this proposal that provides the flexibility PAs seek so that more efficient patient care may be provided while, at the same time, maintaining the appropriate safeguards to ensure patient safety,” Koma said.

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The Ohio Nurses Association  (ONA) is still reviewing the proposal and hasn’t taken a position on it, said Jennifer Price, ONA’s director of health policy. Price said the PA bill is “much broader” than last year’s RN death pronouncement legislation, in that it expands a PA’s scope of practice, adds immunity provisions and allows PAs to be Medicaid providers at the 100 percent reimbursement level.

“Given the variety of issues raised in HB 284, I believe it is likely that several groups will  want to weigh in on the legislation as it moves through the legislature,” she said.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Anne Gonzeles, R-Westerville,  and Rep. Tom Letson, D-Warren.