U.S. Senate Passes Jessie’s Law Allowing Sharing of Patients’ Addiction Histories

by | Aug 3, 2017

The U.S. Senate has passed new legislation that will allow patients’ histories of drug addiction treatment to be shared with their physicians with consent. The legislation will help to ensure physicians can make more informed decisions about treatment for patients with a history of drug abuse.

The legislation – termed Jessie’s Law – was introduced by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and the bill was co-sponsored by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). The bill takes its name from Ann Arbor, MI patient Jessica Grubb.

Jessica Grubb had been batting with heroin addiction for seven years before undergoing treatment. She had been sober for six months and had turned her life around; however, Jessica suffering a running injury and surgery was required.

At the hospital, Jessica’s parents repeatedly explained to doctors that their daughter was a recovering addict and that she should not be prescribed opioids, unless under strict supervision. That information did not reach her discharging doctor who prescribed her oxycodone tablets. That same evening, Jessica took several tablets and died from an overdose. Had her full medical history been allowed to be shared with all of her physicians, the overdose would have been avoided.

The drug addiction histories of patients are not permitted to be shared with doctors. That information is kept separate from patient’s medical records. However, that separation can all too easily lead to tragic incidents such as this.

While the legislation allows drug abuse histories to be shared, to protect the privacy of patients, the “history of opioid use disorder should, only at the patient’s request, be prominently displayed in the medical records (including electronic health records).”

Sen. Manchin, said “Today, Jessie’s Law passed in the Senate and it is a moment I am grateful to be a part of. This legislation honors the life of Jessie, someone who was lost too soon to something that was 100 percent preventable.”

Jessie’s law will not go to the House for consideration. Sens. Manchin and Capito will continue to work hard to make sure the bill is passed by the House.

If the bill is passed, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be required to issue guidelines for healthcare providers explaining when a history of opioid use can be prominently displayed on a patient’s medical record.

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