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Senate Bill 1012 — Patient rights to visitation

Senate Bill 1012 — Patient rights to visitation

Parrish Miller
January 24, 2023

Bill Description: Senate Bill 1012 would provide for patients’ right to visitation while in hospitals, hospices, and long-term care facilities.

Rating: +3

Does it violate the spirit or the letter of either the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution? Examples include restrictions on speech, public assembly, the press, privacy, private property, or firearms. Conversely, does it restore or uphold the protections guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution?

Among the many egregious violations of individual rights we witnessed over the last several years, one of the most troubling was the callous denial of a patient's right to visit with friends and family while bedridden or confined to a hospital or care facility. 

In extreme cases, we even saw people denied access to their loved ones in their final hours, a truly unprecedented level of cruelty perpetrated against both patients and their families. 

To combat such actions, Senate Bill 1012 would create Chapter 8, Title 39, Idaho Code, to establish a positive "Patient Right to Visitation" to "guarantee the right of Idahoans to be visited by immediate family members and health care agents when staying in a health care or assistance facility."

Among other provisions, it would require hospitals and care facilities, within 30 days, to establish visitation policies and procedures that allow "visitation by immediate family members and health care agents" and "consensual physical contact between a patient or resident and the patient's or resident's visitor."

Hospitals and care facilities would be required to allow visitation for at least two hours per patient per day and would not be permitted to limit the number of immediate family members visiting to fewer than four. 


One of the more important details contained in this bill is that the visitation policies and procedures "may not require visitors to submit proof of any vaccination or immunization." This should eliminate one of the primary pretexts used to deny visitation rights in the past. 


An additional critical protection is that "visitation by immediate family members or health care agents may not be suspended based on the declaration of a state of emergency by the federal or state government or by the political subdivision in which the facility is located."


Improvements to Senate Bill 1012 would include expanding the right to visitation to include friends and extended family members. As written, many close relationships (including an unmarried romantic partner) would not be protected under this chapter. 

Another possibility for improvement exists regarding enforcement. As written, the bill says the Department of Health and Welfare "may prescribe by rule administrative penalties for facilities that fail to conform to the provisions of this chapter." Given the inclination of hospitals and care facilities to deny the visitation rights of patients, which has been vividly demonstrated over the past three years, a more potent enforcement mechanism seems warranted.

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