`Parker Jensen' Bill Advancing in House

`Parker Jensen' Bill Advancing in House

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- With no public comment, nor the usual throng of parents' rights advocates, a bill to protect the health care decisions parents make for their children passed unanimously through a House committee Monday.

Sponsored by Sen. Dave Thomas, R-South Weber, the bill allows parents to select health care options outside mainstream medicine, as long as they can prove the choices are informed. The so-called "Parker Jensen" bill would also prevent the Division of Child and Family Services from beginning a medical neglect case against parents when they refuse the care of a physician.

The House Health and Human Services Committee passed the bill on a 6-0 vote, with some minor amendments. It now goes to the full House for consideration.

The proposal cleared the Senate on a 25-0 vote last week.

During a Senate committee hearing two weeks ago, parents' rights advocates packed the room to testify in favor of the measure, along with a seemingly healthy Parker Jensen and his parents. Jensen, now 14, was at the center of a custody battle in 2003 after his parents refused chemotherapy treatments for their son's cancer and were charged with kidnapping and medical neglect.

Had Thomas' bill been law at the time, Daren and Barbara Jensen would not likely have been charged, as they could have proved that they were making a "reasonable and informed" decision about their son's care. Daren Jensen has said the family was never allowed to show the juvenile courts the research they had done before electing an alternative treatment plan for Parker's illness.

"The idea was to make sure that all the options were on the table," Thomas said as he explained the bill to the House committee. "Obviously if you are seeking heart treatments from a dentist that is not going to be reasonable."

The state can still take action against a family in medical neglect cases under the bill, although doctors will be protected from malpractice suits under the legislation.

The bill raises the juvenile court standard for proving medical neglect to "clear and convincing evidence," which is the standard used in most juvenile court matters, Thomas said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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